How many kids in Kenosha County don’t have beds? How many are sleeping on couches, or worse yet, the floor?
There’s no way to know, but a local man is starting up a new charity group to make sure that every child sleeps in a proper bed.
Michael Prudhom of Racine is starting the Racine-Kenosha chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an Idaho-based nonprofit that builds bunk beds.
Prudhom has five grandkids, and he said he knows the value of them getting a good night’s sleep. He’s also had friends and relatives who have been homeless. So when he saw an online episode of Mike Rowe’s “Returning the Favor” that focused on the bunk bed charity, he felt inspired to act.
“It really resonated with me,” Prudhom said. “I thought, ‘I can build a bed. I know how to use basic tools. I’ve built a wheelchair ramp, and a deck. I can do this.’”
Sleep in Heavenly Peace has 14 chapters sprinkled across the country, founder and executive director Luke Mickelson said. Since the episode of “Returning the Favor” aired, he said they’ve gotten flooded with calls and emails from people like Prudhom wanting to start their own local chapter.
Prudhom will be traveling to Idaho in mid-April to train with the Sleep in Heavenly Peace team. All the bunk beds are made exactly the same way, Mickelson said, using a set of specifications. The estimated value of each bed (including mattress and bedding) is $389.
“We’ve got it down to a science,” he said. “We can build 10 beds in an hour even if volunteers have never touched a drill before in their lives.”
Mickelson said his efforts started in 2012, when he volunteered to make a bed for a needy family in his congregation. His family shared a photo of the finished bed on Facebook and were inundated with more requests. That Christmas, they made 10 more beds and soon, Sleep in Heavenly Peace was born.
One of the most surprising things he’s found, Mickelson said, is that many people are surprised to hear that many children in America sleep on the floor. He has never been able to find a study pinpointing the number of kids without beds, but he estimates that at least 2 percent of children in his area of Idaho don’t have beds. If that statistic held true in the city of Kenosha, that would mean every night there are about 5,200 children here sleeping on floors.
“People think it’s only happening in rundown parts of town, but what I found very quickly was that this is a problem everywhere,” he said. “Some parents are doing the best they can, and the best they can is ‘shelter and food.’ Beds are expensive. Mattresses are expensive.”
Prudhom is hoping to host the first local “build day” for the Racine-Kenosha chapter in June, and he’s looking for volunteers. The charity delivers beds complete with mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows, so donations of building materials and new bedding are needed. If you’d like to help, you can reach him at email@example.com or call 262-497-6488.