Churches in the Midwest support a nonprofit group that provides beds for children


What? Are there children who don’t have beds to sleep in? Really?

That was the first thought of Alan Balmer, now a member of the Marshfield Assembly of God in Marshfield, Missouri, when a colleague told him about Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a program that provides free beds for children who don’t have one.

And as Balmer has since learned, the need is far greater than he ever imagined — no matter the size of the community — and the program’s beneficiaries aren’t just limited to those receiving the beds.

Go out

Balmer was working in Alabama when the company he worked for tasked him with finding worthy programs to donate to to help the communities the company served. He met a colleague who enthusiastically told him about Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP).

“When he started telling me about the number of kids who didn’t have beds—they slept on the floor, on piles of laundry, or just on a mattress—I couldn’t believe it,” says Balmer. “Tears welled up in my eyes as he shared their stories.”

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Convinced the company should support this, he got the ball rolling — and then COVID hit the country. Everything closed. People were reluctant to leave their homes, let alone welcome non-family members into their homes.

“We ended up moving to Missouri and living in Marshfield in 2020 to be closer to family,” says Balmer. “And one night at 3 a.m. I woke up – wide awake – and the words ‘sleep in heaven’ kept running through my head. I thought God wanted to get my attention.”

Balmer spoke to his pastor, Doug Sampley of the Marshfield Assembly of God, about the idea of ​​starting their own SHP chapter.

Sampley liked the idea, but recommended that Balmer speak to a few other Church men to gauge interest. There was interest, but much like what Balmer originally experienced, there was some skepticism – Were there really that many children who needed a bed in the city of around 7,500 inhabitants and in the surrounding rural area?

“I initially questioned the necessity,” confirms Robert Williams, who now serves as the Community Engagement Manager for the SHP Marshfield Chapter. “I found it difficult to accept that there would be a significant number of children without their own bed.”

Time and consciousness have long since erased all doubts.

With Sampley’s blessing, Balmer, Williams, Tom Donovan, Carl Gore and Terry Arndt became charter members of the SHP Marshfield Chapter.

It takes faith

Balmer says the five men traveled to San Antonio for a two-day training session to understand all of the expectations, needs and processes required to be an SHP chapter.

“I knew SHP was something we had to do,” says Sampley, “even if it meant we only had to make a few beds a year.”

But before that process could begin, one of the first things the new chapter had to do was buy the equipment – saws, grinders, drill presses, drills, blades, bits, etc. – needed to build beds.

“Lowe’s is the national sponsor,” says Balmer. “They have a chapter start-up program that provides a $4,000 loan to buy all the tools we need. We took advantage of that without really knowing how to repay it all.”

But Sampley and the group of five men committed themselves to the cause that seemed to be blessed by God – within four months they were able to pay the bill. Even when they learned that due to restrictions imposed by sponsors, SHP does not allow the outreach to be officially linked to a church, it did not stop them from giving their all.

As word spread about the new SHP Marshfield Chapter and the men began speaking to local businesses and leaders, donations and grants poured in from a local bank, lumberyard, the electrical cooperative, foundations, individuals and even other churches in the community.

bedsIn March 2021 the SHP Marshfield Chapter started. In May, the chapter held its first “Bed Build Day” where volunteers – initially mostly all from Marshfield AG – were organized into an assembly line of workers who performed specific tasks such as measuring, cutting, drilling, grinding – lots and lots of grinding – and coloring. In all, parts for 10 beds were created that day, and mattresses, blankets, pillows, sheets, and pillowcases were also purchased or donated.

“It costs about $250 in parts to build a complete bed,” explains Balmer. “But that includes donations in kind. We receive donations of comforters from Miracles for Margaret, quilts from the Springfield Quilting Guild and the Correctional Facility. And we have an Amazon Wishlist that people and businesses just buy from and it’s sent straight to us.”

But as Williams notes, a bed makes a real difference in a child’s life, although the cost can present challenges.

“I believe good rest is important for kids to do well in school, in relationships, and in life in general,” he says. And experts support William’s beliefs, repeatedly stating that proper sleep is an essential part of children’s good health and mental functioning.

explosion of needs

Some might think that 10 children in need of beds sounds about right for a relatively small, rural community. Things happen – loss of income, care, becoming a single parent – and suddenly a solid situation turns into a great need.

But as word of the SHP Marshfield Chapter began to spread, more people began asking for help — and not just a chunk. In less than two years, the chapter built, delivered and set up 300 beds, with 50 newer ones due to ship later this year. The idea that so many children (ages 3 to 17) in their area needed a bed did not occur to Balmer or the core group of men when they first started the chapter.

They also found that having children without beds is not just a local challenge.

“Our monthly applications are increasing,” Williams concedes, “but we’ve also learned that in many chapters there’s a waiting list of applicants that exceed their capacity to build — in fact, we bring our tools and people and go on to Springfield ( about 25 miles southwest of Marshfield) on May 11 to help them build.”

And for those concerned about this nonprofit potentially lining the pockets of volunteer executives, Balmer is quick to put those concerns to rest.

“No one takes money for our chapter—no salary, no mileage reimbursement,” he says. “So 90% of every donation that comes in goes directly towards buying items for beds, the other 10% (which is a far smaller percentage than many nonprofits) goes to the business unit for SHP to cover things like insurance, liability, grant writing, training of chapter volunteers, and hosting of the website.

Not religious, just Christian

While some may express concern that Marshfield AG cannot associate its name with the Marshfield SHP chapter, it doesn’t bother Sampley or Balmer in the slightest.

“For example, not being the SHP Marshfield Assembly of God Chapter,” explains Balmer, “has really opened the door for other churches and businesses to get involved. It created a sense of unity.”

Sampley, who oversees the creation of the headboards on build days and has observed a greater diversity (different churches and men, women and children of all ages) in the build volunteers, agrees.

“It’s really cool to see all the different people that come out to help make the beds — different denominations and sometimes not even church people,” says Sampley. “As a pastor, I rejoice when the congregation comes together and doesn’t bother so much with the little things between the teachings of the church, but rather come together to minister to people. . . and our church people gather round every bed build we make and couldn’t be happier.”

More than beds

Although SHP is solely focused on providing beds, the result for Marshfield AG is that relationships have been built, goodwill and trust have been built and the needs of the community have been better known and understood.

“During the delivery of beds, we became aware of other needs in some households,” says Balmer, “and we were able to do several home repairs and help some families.”

Melynda Van Note, who also works for Marshfield AG, plays several important roles in the SHP chapter Marshfield. In addition to her voluntary work as a grinder on construction days, she regularly accompanies the men who go into the houses to set up the beds. Her presence provides an extra level of comfort for single mothers, and she helps children choose the bedding she brings.

Additionally, as the Marshfield School District Director of Special Services, she is able to connect families with additional community resources that can help them weather times of financial hardship.

“I love it, I mean Love it,” says Van Note. “Talking to the mothers, being able to give back – I just love to give, that’s me. . . and the little kids, Alan (Balmer) and Tom (Donovan), let them “help” build their own beds – the kids are just so proud they helped. . . They don’t know me, but when we’re ready to go, they often just run up to us so happily and say ‘I love you’ and ‘thank you’.”

Aside from the parents’ humble gratitude for the beds, perhaps the greatest immediate reward for the volunteers is the stories of the children’s reactions – some watching in disbelief, others excited to help. Laughing, screaming, hugging, tearing and then just sunbathing in the joy of having a real bed to sleep on. As Balmer puts it, it’s simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking.

“We’ve become so much more aware of the physical and spiritual needs in our community,” says Balmer. “And every house we go to we ask if we can pray for them . . . often people break down and raise a concern and we can pray with them. Only one person declined our offer of prayer.”

This article was originally published at AG News.

Based in Springfield, Missouri, Dan Van Veen is the news editor of AG News.

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