Op-Ed

It’s up to you to find a way to make Thurston County a better community

Each of us must pay it forward to fully belong to a community. Living in the capital city of Washington, we are fortunate to live among primarily good people, hardworking people and people who take care of their neighbors and friends. It is not just what we get, it is about what we give; what we do in return to contribute to our community of people is about the footprint we leave as we pass through this life, and especially through our town.

There are many local organizations and service clubs that devote their time, effort and money to great projects each year: Zonta, Kiwanis, Rotary, the Elks, the Masons, the Eagles, to name a few. There also are members of our community who continue to contribute food, money and time to the food banks, as well as those who volunteer through churches, synagogues, schools, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Morningside, Habitat for Humanity — the list goes on and on.

Over the years we have been involved in the Box Project, adopting kids in other countries, “Buy a Goat”, Providence Christmas Forest, and the Christmas Box. It really is a great feeling to help others locally, nationally and globally.

This past April, I became aware of another group, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an organization committed to building bunkbeds for kids. Their motto is: “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town!”

The charity was founded in Kimberly, Idaho in 2012 by Luke and Heidi Mickelson. Luke believes “Our town is every town.” Their story: Luke’s kids were complaining about their Christmas gifts, so as a reminder just how fortunate they were, he took them out to his garage and together they built the first bunkbed for kids in their town sleeping on the floor. What a powerful lesson.

He went to social media to give the bed away and was shocked at the response. Today, they get an average of 60 requests per day.

Thanks to Mike Rowe (of “Dirty Jobs”) who visited the Mickelsons while shooting one of the episodes of his current show, “Returning the Favor,” the national spotlight on their charity was just what they needed. Since 2017, Sleep in Heavenly Peace has gone from 2 chapters to approximately 134 (by year end 2019) nationwide, determined to help solve a national crisis. In just six years they had built 4,144 bunks, had 14,780 people volunteer, and had 9,253 kids off the floor at night.

This past April 13, LeMier Phillips Construction in Tumwater paid it forward with a “Build Day” to get more kids off the floor in our own town. Kim Cook, who works for LP, saw a Sleep in Heavenly Peace booth at a remodelers’ convention in Oregon last year. She was so touched by the project and impressed at the young people constructing these handmade bunkbeds that she got the owners on board, Dave Phillips and Bob LeMier. In less than three hours, with 30 volunteers, they pounded out 22 beds. LP funded all the lumber, but many other local businesses and individuals donated materials, tools, time, bedding, pillows, food, coffee, etc. It was a great community effort to provide much needed beds.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace provides the mattresses, having negotiated a deal with a chain. Each bed is emblazoned with the Sleep in Heavenly Peace brand. Many kids were soon off the floor and some for the first time in their lives were sleeping on a bed.

If you are interested in being a part of the next Build Day, contact LeMier Phillips Construction, or go to SHPbeds.org. You can watch Mike Rowe on social media surprise the Mickelsons with a new warehouse and four years free rent to make the bunkbeds; it’s a very emotional episode.

You too can make a difference. You can change a life for the good. Decide on a charity or service club that you would enjoy working with and, as has been said before, “You be the difference.”

Susan Ritter is a semiretired business owner and a member of the 2019 Olympian Board of Contributors. She may be reached at Susanhritter@comcast.net.
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