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Humanitarian Funds Grant to SHP Humanitarian and faith leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ gather with SHP chapter vice president Jeannie Stone for presentation of project funds.

Prosper, TX — On Saturday, June 1, distant rain clouds threatened the sky, but that did not thwart the dedicated Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) staff wearing red shirts with the motto No kid sleeps on the floor in our town. With the gracious help of interfaith groups and humanitarian funds granted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the nonprofit produced 52 handmade beds in about two hours to meet an ongoing demand in communities across North Texas.

SHP has been building and delivering fully furnished beds for communities nationwide since 2012. The idea began with one family in Idaho wanting to give back to their community and build a single bed for a family in need. The leftover wood became another bed, and the family soon discovered that they could connect this same need in other communities with volunteers ready to help. The organization has now built and delivered 200,000 beds to individuals and families through more than 300 locally based chapters in 44 U.S. states and four countries.

For this project organized by the Sleep in Heavenly Peace - TX, Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, SHP volunteer Curtis Green gave safety instructions and supervised the work. Approximately 180 youth and adults from the Church of Jesus Christ, the Islamic Center of Frisco (ICF), and the Walnut Grove High School and Rock Hill High School archery teams gathered to construct each bed’s frames, slats, and headboards. SHP has perfected the construction process by setting up stations in an assembly line where volunteers can focus on just one or two tasks, such as carrying fresh-cut lumber to stations or sanding, assembly, staining and branding. When the rain did start that afternoon, the crew was ready with tents and awnings, allowing the work to go forward.

When asked about her interest in the Sleep in Heavenly Peace mission, Angela Johnson, a JustServe coordinator for Prosper, commented, “I had never heard of SHP prior to speaking with a JustServe specialist for Carrollton [who had been involved in a bed build for SHP]. I loved the idea of that project.” As she researched more about it, she worked to bring together the nonprofit organization, the volunteers, and the funding for the project.

Ellie Schofield, a recent high school graduate, shared her feelings about this kind of service. “I’ve never done a type of volunteering like this, where we’re building something and [doing] a hands-on experience like this for my own community. ... It’s really a cool experience to be able to do this for somewhere in my own community, knowing that it is impacting people around us.”

Saba Ilyas and Rafia Munir measured out and wrapped bed slats for transport. As a lead for the interfaith and outreach department and former media relations manager for ICF, respectively, they spoke about their experiences with interfaith ministry and the value of getting involved in service in the community.

Ilyas explained, “[ICF] started doing interfaith and outreach in 2007; … we’ve had a wonderful time and just a lot of wonderful churches and synagogues and other houses of worship [have] been able to grow partnerships … together.”

Munir added that interfaith efforts can strengthen ties in a community and build bridges. “You cannot just be in one place and … say, we are just here; we are okay; we are good — so we don't need to be affected by anything else,” she said. Her view is that we are all part of the fabric of a community. “You get affected because it’s the whole body and when one body is hurting [or] part of our body is hurting, then all of [the body] is affected by it, and they should get over to help you.”

The women emphasized that bringing youth of different faiths together is important. Ilyas commended the teens’ choice to gather on a summer morning to work together. “No one’s forcing them,” she said, “and [I hope] they learn that they are more similar than they thought. They mess up the same. They laugh the same. … [This] just gives them a stepping ground to be able to work on continuing those relationships. I think that is super important, for us to live in the same community and grow as one.”

Kevin Brandvold, bishop of a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ in Prosper, agreed. “They work, they play, they go to school with everyone in the community. And it’s incredibly important for me that they know how to interact well with others, [to] respect others’ beliefs while sharing our own beliefs and just being good citizens and good disciples of Christ,” he said. “Every time that we can do an opportunity like this where we’re working together, it helps break down barriers. It helps tear down some of those walls and it just allows them to be in a natural environment and have fun with one another.”

Presley Rothe, an incoming high school freshman, said that she enjoyed making new friends and made it a point to do so. “I wanted to work with people I don’t already know,” she said. “I really liked their perseverance. They’re helping me and I’m helping them, and it’s really cool that we can connect with each other even though we aren’t the exact same.”

Johnson considers the Saturday service project a success. “We did more than build beds; we served side by side with youth and adults of different religious backgrounds,” she said. “We came together with a common goal and new friendships were formed. I’m confident those who built beds [will] serve again. And those that received the beds will realize they are loved and cared for.”

As local chapter SHP vice president Jeannie Stone summed it up, “Love is something we can all give.”  

Ongoing needs of SHP can be found on their website and at JustServe.org.