BY SHERI TRUSTY
A few years ago, Kendra and Jim Berlin were looking for a way to give back to the community. Thanks to that simple dream, 30 Ottawa County children who once slept on floors and couches now have beds of their own.
Soon, even more children will receive new beds for free.
The Berlins started an Oak Harbor chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), an international organization that builds wooden beds and donates them to local children in need. The kids also receive new mattresses, pillows and bedding.
“My husband and I were talking about some way to give back. We go to work, come home, and do homework with the kids. We knew there had to be something more,” Kendra said.
The beds are constructed through three different types of group builds: Organizational builds by local nonprofits, sponsored builds by local businesses, and community builds with local residents. The Berlins were trained by SHP in July 2020 and hosted their first event, a build sponsored by Lowes in Fremont in September 2022.
“They brought tools, bedding and 15 people,” Kendra said. “It costs $250 to make a bed, and Lowes brought enough lumber to make 20 beds.”
SHP beds are available to any child age three to 17 who doesn’t have a bed to sleep in.
“That’s the only qualifications. There are no financial disclosures. That’s what attracted us to it,” Kendra said.
The Oak Harbor Chapter of SHP serves children in Oak Harbor and Port Clinton and hopes to expand its reach across all of Ottawa County. Families wishing to request a bed for a child can apply online at www.bit.ly/requestabunk.
The Oak Harbor Chapter of SHP is based in a downtown building provided rent-free by Ben Spanfellner, who owns the Subway restaurant next door. The building includes clean storage space for donations of mattresses and bedding and a large workshop where teams of people build the beds.
“We are so thankful to Ben,” Kendra said.
The Berlins are looking for businesses, organizations and individuals who want to help build beds. No experience is necessary. Training is provided, and volunteers work at stations in an expedient process that allows a team to build several beds in just a few hours.
“Our core team trains volunteers at the different stations,” Kendra said. “All of the beds are built from scratch, and everything we give out is brand new.”
The Oak Harbor Chapter of SHP will host an organizational build on Saturday, June 3, a sponsored build on Wednesday, July 12 and a community build on Saturday, Oct. 14. The chapter is looking for donations of bedding and pillows.
“We are in big need of single, twin-size comforters and pillows,” Kendra said.