Sitting from L-R: Hailey Adkins, Nathan Bauman, Cameren Hill, Zachary Stice, Haley Markette, Haven Shelton, Summer Burall. Standing from L-R: Dekota Manley, Taylor Yartz, Keith McDannold (SkillsUSA advisor), Michael Gillen, Gabrielle Green-Beck, Hailey Amerer, John Giebler (SkillsUSA advisor), Mackenzie Young. Photo courtesy of Gibson Technical Center.
“All children deserve a safe, comfortable place to lay their heads.” That line drives the work of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a nonprofit organization providing high-quality beds for needy children forced to sleep on couches or floors every night. The words also resonated with SkillsUSA members from Gibson Technical Center (GTC) in Reeds Springs, Mo., who chose to support their local SHP chapter through a special community service effort.
When the students were brainstorming potential service projects at the beginning of the school year (part of SkillsUSA’s Program of Work for all chapters), GTC staff members Tammy and Robert Parrish suggested SHP as a deserving choice. They would know: Both staff members also work with SHP.
The idea appealed to the students immediately as they talked about how badly they feel when they don’t sleep well and how unfair it is that some children in their community have to face those feelings every day. The decision was unanimous: This SkillsUSA chapter was about to build some beds.
Early on a Saturday October morning, a group of GTC SkillsUSA members from different trade areas — including construction, early childhood education, automotive, collision, health technology, printing, and culinary — arrived at SHP to begin their work. “The students could have easily stayed home and slept in, but instead they came out to give back to others,” says SkillsUSA lead advisor Keith McDannold.
The students were trained in safety protocols and then began to precut, sand, stain and brand the wood for the beds. “Most didn’t know each other before the event, so it was surprising how well they worked with each other and quickly became friends,” says McDannold. “They built 23 beds in about three hours and went home satisfied that they had done something on their Saturday morning that will improve the lives of many kids.”
Luke and Heidi Mickelson founded SHP in 2012 in Twin Falls, Idaho. They understood that too many children go without a bed (or even a pillow) to sleep on and that this affects their happiness and health. As of Feb. 2022, the organization reported 200 chapters across the U.S. that had built and delivered more than 100,000 beds with mattresses, bedding and pillows.
“I really loved working on the beds,” says construction senior and morning-block SkillsUSA president Michael Gillen. “It gave me an idea of what to look forward to once I graduate. I enjoyed experiencing something that will bring joy and relief to many children.”
“I learned that we take a lot for granted in life and we don’t think about what others go through,” adds early childhood careers junior and SkillsUSA morning-block secretary Hailey Camerer. “Parents work hard to get what they need for their children, and doing this made me feel as though I was relieving some of their stress.”
According to Jacob Stephens, a senior construction afternoon-block community service team member, “Building these beds made me feel good that I could help others. In just a few hours, we changed the lives of 23 kids by getting them off the floor and into a bed.”
“Words cannot express how proud I am of the kids who came out to serve people in need,” says instructor John Giebler, who also helped at the event. “These students understand that the sun shines on a lot more than just each individual person.”
“We were so impressed with this group for the hard work they did in such a short time,” says health occupations instructor Tammy Parrish. “We appreciate this group of students so much.” Para-professional Robbie Parrish chimed in, “These kids have done more than a lot of our adult groups that come in. They came on a mission to get as much work done as possible.”
“I push all our SkillsUSA members to step out of their comfort zone and try new things, along with giving back to the community,” says McDannold. “I tell them every time they try something new, they expand their zone and they learn from it. This can be anything from improving their organization skills, operating a new tool, talking to strangers, or getting up in front of a group. It all improves their soft skills which makes them a more valuable employee.”