On Saturday, the Tomah nonprofit group, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, gathered at the Tomah Fair Grounds, along with many volunteers. While officially being listed as a satellite company, to the Portage chapter of the international organization, the Tomah group ensures that all of the beds that were built on Saturday, will be delivered to those kids in need of them, in the Monroe County area. February 25th has been the designated build-day for a while, and despite a nasty weather forecast, the day was sunny and the event ran smoothly.
In actuality, the beds are not put together until they are delivered to the children. The build-day is the day that all of the parts of the bed are constructed, with accuracy. Headboards and footboards are created, along with the foundation boards. With the little pieces of wood that are left over from the cut, a fire is started and sustained, to heat the branding irons, in order to officially mark the “SHP,” for Sleep in Heavenly Peace, on each sleeper creation.
On Saturday afternoon, Lance Bunde, originally from Millston, was at the dipping station. The station had long troughs of chemical sealant, where the bed boards were soaked, to ensure that no bugs are, or ever will be, inside the wood. Lance was part of 12 to 20 volunteers that came from the Walmart Distribution Center. “Last year I started out with four hours of sanding,” Bunde stated. “This year, I took over for someone, on the soaking of the boards. I like this year better,” he quipped.
Brian Scheibach was on hand for the big build. Scheibach is with the Portage contingency, and is the Chapter Growth Manager for the national nonprofit. The Portage Chapter has built and delivered close to 1,000 beds, all within a 35-mile radius of their headquarters, since 2018. The Tomah satellite group benefitted greatly from the kindness of the Portage group.
“We have $7,000 worth of tools, which are all very necessary for the build,” Scheiback stated. “It would be senseless for Tomah to have put that kind of money out for a few builds a year. Even the Madison Chapter, being relatively new, borrows the tools from us, for their builds. They come to Portage and retrieve my trailer, full of all the tools, and head down to their build site.” Scheibach also stated that Gwen Nelson, who pushed for the Tomah chapter, would provide the zip codes for the areas the beds would be delivered in, and that those zip codes would be put in the national database for the nonprofit.
When asked to compare the Tomah build to other builds, Scheibach stated, “They are all very similar. The number of volunteers is always through the roof. People are scheduled to come in at certain times, and can leave after their shift, but they never leave.”
Brian Scheibach told the Herald that some communities do not believe that there is a need for the beds in their neighborhoods. “I remember the mayor coming to a meeting, and he sat in the back, with his arms folded,” Scheibach said. “He refused to believe that anyone needed a bed in his city. Then, the first delivery was blocks away from the mayor’s home. In a huge house, there was one bed and a recliner. There was a note on the refrigerator, which had the schedule for who got to sleep in the recliner on a given night. Since that moment, the mayor has been a huge supporter, even coming along on many deliveries.”
Scheibach was well versed in all aspects of the nonprofit. “For every dollar raised, 90 cents stays in the community. The remaining 10 cents goes for insurance and management.” He then went on to say that larger cities will get donations of $40,000, straight away, from a single company. “The average donation in smaller towns, is $87,” Scheibach explained. “We get up to $30,000 in donations a year, which is a testament to awesome communities and the incredible dedication on the part of our chapters, to go out and work to reach that goal.”
Maurice Amundson was in attendance, as were several of his brothers, a son and a nephew. “My brother Tim has a small woodshop, and we [brothers Mark, Tim, Chris, Maurice] spent around 6 hours yesterday, cutting the boards to length, making the building operation a bit smoother today,” Amundson said. “We came in early today, so that when everyone arrived the stations were set up and ready to go. We even sang happy birthday to two of the cadets, from the [ Challenge] academy, whose birthdays were today.”
Gwen Nelson, who spearheaded the satellite chapter in Tomah, said that around 100 volunteers showed up for the days build. “I had about 60 people sign up for today, 25 members from the Challenge Academy came in and about 20 people just showed up,” Nelson told the Herald. “You know, it’s kind of like a bee’s nest when it first starts out, a bit crazy, because the sanding has to be done before anything else can take place. The completion of the sanding sets everything else into motion, so people are no longer standing around and waiting.” Nelson then pointed over to the dipping station, where Lance Bunde was just finishing up. “The dipping station is the last step, and it takes a little bit because it needs to dry for a little bit, so there is no warping with the boards.”
By the time all was said and done, around 40 beds had been built, or at least the parts anyway. Brian Scheibach said that the best part was delivering the beds to the homes. “The kids walk around and wear down the batteries on our power tools, giggling the entire time,” Scheibach said. “We bring in more than one bed, even though they look pretty much the same, and let the kids choose their bed.” Scheibach also spoke to the power of the community coming together for such an endeavor. “The beds and what they represent is important, but what happened today is just as powerful. I call it an old-fashioned barn raising. I believe the true joy comes when you take your eyes off yourself and put them on others. These people gave up there Saturday and worked side-by side, with strangers, to bring comfort and happiness to kids.”
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