When Michael Prudhom volunteered to begin running a Kenosha-Racine chapter of a charity that provides beds for children he “figured we’d have requests for 12 or 15 beds.”
Instead, he said, the local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace has given away 600 beds in three years and has consistently had a waiting list.
“There is more need than I ever thought there would be,” Prudhom said, saying that families who are struggling financially often resort to having children sleep on the floor, or have multiple family members sharing one bare mattress.
On Friday — and happening again next week — volunteers with the Jockey Being Family Foundation, the charitable arm of Jockey International, were gathered in a tent outside the Jockey corporate headquarters, 2300 60th St., building beds for the program.
Inside the tent, volunteers were working to build the wooden frames — some operating saws, others sanding, others putting together the frames. Outside the tent, a bunk bed made up with bright red polka-dotted comforters gave volunteer employees a chance to see the finished product that would be going out to kids over the next few weeks.
Some of the volunteers were wearing T-shirts that said “No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in Our Town.”
Jake McGhee, vice president and chief philanthropy officer for Jockey Being Family, said the volunteers, most of them Jockey employees, are aiming to construct 100 beds over the two-day build, enough to provide beds for the 60 families on the waiting list and to build an inventory for Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
“We saw there was a big need in the community, and this is what Jockey Being Family is all about,” said McGhee, saying he spoke to staff at Frank Elementary School in Kenosha and learned there were 25 children just at that school in need of beds.
Families who sign up for the beds can get bunk beds or singles. Each bed comes with a mattress, bedding, a comforter and — in the case of those donated by Jockey — a care package that includes things like a stuffed bear, a soft blanket and children’s books.
“These beds will to be going to families in Kenosha, a lot of them to families right in our neighborhood,” said Matthew Waller, Jockey director of corporate communications. He said volunteers from the company will also help deliver the beds.
Jockey Being Family has in the past focused much of its charitable efforts on supporting adoptive families. Last year, the foundation’s leadership hired McGhee, who previously ran the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha, with the aim of increasing its charitable giving directly in the Kenosha community. Friday’s event was a part of that initiative.
“This is exactly the kind of thing we want to do going forward,” McGhee said.
Prudhom said Sleep in Heavenly Peace has been operating in Kenosha and Racine since 2017. He said the international organization is based in Idaho, and has about 250 chapters in the United States and several other countries.
He said since he began volunteering his eyes have been opened to the often hidden needs of families in the community, saying at one point he was delivering a bed and learned that the address he was delivering to was a cousin by marriage.
“I think for a lot of people having a roof over their head and having food is the priority, and things like having beds are pretty far down on the list of needs,” Prudhom said.
With Jockey’s donation, the organization will be able to fill its entire waiting list and, for the first time, have an inventory waiting when people apply.
Prudhom said Sleep in Heavenly Peace holds “community builds” staffed by volunteers and uses volunteers to make deliveries. A local construction company allows volunteers to use their building on build days, and the Kenosha Achievement Center allows them to store beds and materials in the center warehouse. Prudhom said the group is always looking for volunteers, especially those that can help bring the beds to families.
“All children deserve a peaceful night’s sleep and we hope to provide beds for all kids in Racine and Kenosha,” Prudhom said.
To apply for a bed, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.shpbeds.org/