Organization works to make sure no kid sleeps on the floor

Benedictine student Evan Sutherland helps Sleep in Heavenly Peace build beds so that no child in Atchison has to sleep on the floor. Since May 2017, the group has built 36 beds. The demand, however, continues, with at least 65 requests for beds still pending. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Erin Hunninghake
Special to TheLeaven

ATCHISON — Many of us take for granted the simple pleasure of being tucked into our own bed every night — and forget that some are denied this luxury.

Thanks to a group called Sleep In Heavenly Peace, however, those numbers are dropping in Atchison County.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace originated in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 2012 with a simple mission: “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”

What started with a simple Facebook post by founder Luke Mickelson, that he hoped would surface the need for a bed or two, has now grown into something much larger — and continues to spread.

The Atchison chapter came about this past spring, thanks to the work of Benedictine College’s associate professor of engineering Patrick O’Malley.

“I found the group on Facebook and knew that with all the new space in BC’s engineering building, building beds was something we could get into pretty easily,” O’Malley said.

With the help of senior engineer major Saige Baalman, O’Malley rallied interest before traveling to Idaho for official training. By May, the BC group was building their first set of beds for the needy in Atchison.

The group now has nine individuals leading the charge for several “build days,” with the help of BC students and other volunteers from around the county.

“One of the nice things is, it’s set up like an assembly line,” O’Malley said.

One volunteer cuts wood, the next drills holes.

“We can teach them one specific job quickly,” he continued, “and have the student leaders manning every station.

“We have people show up who had never used a power tool in their life, but they get that experience with us.”

In September, around 70 volunteers showed up to build beds at BC and enjoyed a special visit from Mickelson in the process. Mickelson helped the group build 20 beds that day before speaking to a BC leadership class the following Monday.

“What most people don’t realize is how big the need is,” O’Malley said. “It’s kind of a hidden problem in Atchison. You never really see it — kids having to share a bed.”

Since May, the group has built 36 beds. The demand, however, continues with at least 65 requests for beds still pending.

“The need is really great,” said O’Malley.

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