- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2020

HOPKINTON, Iowa (AP) - During church one morning, Keith Kramer glanced down at a bulletin that listed church updates. As he continued to skim the flyer, he noticed a sentence or two about an organization he had never heard of before.

It had a brief description that mentioned providing kids with beds.

After reading more in a local newspaper and doing some research, Kramer found a Jones County chapter of the national organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace, and he knew he needed to talk to someone about starting it in his area.

“I was just looking for something different,” said Kramer, who also serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. “You see a food bank, and that is an ongoing deal, but a bed can also make a difference for their lifetime. I thought we could do the project and make a difference in Delaware County.”

After meeting with Heather Weers, the chapter president in Jones County, Kramer was hooked. He saw the need Jones County had among youth lacking beds and realized it was something overlooked in Delaware County as well.

“I think it’s needed to get these kids off the floor, or lots of times they are sharing beds or sometimes it’s a couch,” Kramer told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. “They aren’t sleeping right. I think it boosts their confidence level when they start realizing they’ve got their own bed, and they are always going to sleep better.”

Early this year, Kramer flew out to Idaho, where Sleep in Heavenly Peace is based, along with Lynn Chesnut, who also was interested in helping start a chapter in Delaware County.

“It’s a great organization that is going to definitely benefit the kids of our local county,” Chesnut said. “It is a definite eye-opener. I didn’t think there was a need in our area, but there definitely is.”

In order to get equipment and supplies needed to make the beds, Kramer reached out to local businesses and individuals for donations.

“I just continued to spread the word,” Kramer said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends who have always supported my projects, and I talked to some church groups who also made homemade quilts (for the beds).”

So far, the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization has only delivered one bed to a child in Delaware County, but it has supplies and equipment to make and donate many more.

“We did one build just prior to this shutdown and we completed 18 beds,” Chesnut said. “We did a team build where we brought in a group of people and built a bunch of beds in a few hours.”

Now that the state is reopening, volunteers with Sleep in Heavenly Peace are ready to begin delivering beds and hope to start a group build with local churches, businesses and other Delaware County organizations, Chesnut said.

In Jones County, Weers said she had no idea how needed beds were until the Jones County Partnership for Protecting Children received a $1,500 grant to provide area children with beds in 2018.

“(The grant money) was gone in a month,” said Weers, a coordinator with the Jones County PPC. “I started researching and learned about Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Cedar Rapids.”

Weers said it has been less than a year since she started the chapter in Jones County, and already 100 beds have been donated to families in the county.

“I would say we have hit every age range (of recipients),” Weers said. “It is just something you never think about, and just to help that child have their own bed is a big deal.”

Although the excitement surrounding the Delaware County chapter ended as soon as it began because of the pandemic, Chesnut said they are ready to bring the momentum back.

“You can do something that is so beneficial for kids in your neighborhood,” he said. “There are needs you don’t even realize people in your own backyard have. It’s really great to see the joy in the kids’ faces when they get a bed to sleep in.”

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