CoreGroupOfSHP.jpg

The core group of volunteers who have helped the Camanche chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace since its inception in May are, front from left, Sharon McAleer, Laiken McAleer, Rita Crist, Denise Mueller, Shalyn Mueller, Cassie Milder, Stacey Reppert, and Lily Eganhouse. In back are Bill McAleer, Roy Shaft, Hunter Crist and Kendra Mueller.  

When one of her first-graders wrote a letter to Santa last Christmas asking for a bed to sleep in, Shalyn Mueller knew she needed to do something about it.

Not just for that student, but for all the children in Clinton County who don’t have a bed to call their own.  

A social worker at a school in Camanche, Mueller said there are more families facing this issue than people probably realize.

“Every year, there are at least two handfuls of families who need beds,” Mueller related. “It’s really eye-opening.”

Now, she is the president of the Camanche chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a national nonprofit, volunteer-based organization that builds beds for kids who have to sleep on the floor, a couch, or who have to share a bed or sleep on stacked mattresses on the floor.

Mueller hopes to raise awareness about the organization — and as a result, raise funds — to ensure children countywide have what is one of the most fundamental of needs.

Working in different school districts the last couple of years, Mueller said she has seen with her own eyes the need for children to have a safe, comfy place to sleep. 

However, it wasn’t until she spoke with her co-worker, Roy Shaft, the industrial technology teacher in Camanche, that she learned about SHP.

“He said he’d love to get one started in our area to give something back to the community,” Mueller said. “I was excited to get involved right from the get-go.”

The chapter officially was established in May and makes and distributes beds for children ages 3-17. Beds can be made for 18-year-olds as long as they still are in high school and living at home.

Twin beds are available — either bunk beds or single, depending on the need. All beds come with a mattress, bedding and pillows.

Shaft has members of his high school industrial tech class building the beds, and students in his sixth-grade woods class are helping out as part of their coursework. 

Mueller said all money donated to SHP stays in Clinton County and will be used to purchase materials to make the beds. The group also would like to find a larger area to call “home,” as its current home base is the industrial tech room.

“Right now, we have 41 unmet bed requests,” she noted. “Having the proper finances to meet this need is where we’re struggling.”

According to the SHP website, the organization’s mission is, “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.” 

Mueller said it is estimated that between 2% and 3% of kids ages 18 and younger are sleeping without a bed in each community.

So, while the chapter is based in Camanche, volunteers will not limit their efforts only to Camanche residents.

“Our mission is that every kid in Clinton County has a comfortable and safe place to lay their heads at night,” she shared. “In Clinton County alone, around 600 kids sleep without a bed.”

Mueller went on to list the many benefits — both mental and physical health — that having a bed to sleep in can provide.

“Studies show that having a bed not only improves overall physical health and increases academic performance, but also reduces anxiety, depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms,” she said. “So, not only are we meeting a basic need, but we are meeting kids’ social-emotional needs as well.”

To find out more about SHP, for those in need of a bed or who would like to donate money to the cause, visit https://www.shpbeds.org/chapter/ia-camanche; the Facebook page, Sleep in Heavenly Peace — IA, Camanche; or email Mueller at shalyn.mueller@shpbeds.org.

Growing up, Mueller said she never had to experience life without a bed. As a mother, social worker and someone who can help do something about it, Mueller doesn’t want any other child to have to, either.

“There are so many wonderful and well-deserving nonprofits in Clinton County that help families with food and presents at the holiday season,” Mueller said, “but gifting a bed is a solution to a problem that we can fix.”