Orange children receive better night’s rest through Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

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Buddy Marks and his two sons began attending Wesley United Methodist Church in Orange approximately six months ago.

“I’m not sure how they came to the church,” said Carolyn Hillsten. “People have shown them how to do hymns and readings. They are sharp, sharp kids. Their father is very nice.”

But it came to the congregation’s attention that, for whatever reason, the young men did not have beds of their own.

“These two boys had been sleeping on the floor,” Hillsten said. “Their families had some hard times.”

So the church submitted an application to Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit that serves Orange, Jefferson and Hardin counties. Through the help of grants and donations and the work of volunteers, Sleep in Heavenly Peace delivers handmade beds — complete with bedding — to children up to 17 years old.

“When we submitted it, we just said, ‘God will deliver them,’” Hillsten said. “And  he did.”

On Sunday, members of the church were able to assist the nonprofit as they assembled a set of bunk beds at Marks’ house in Orange.

They had been on the waiting list for approximately six weeks. And currently, there are 44 remaining.

“These are people with just an Orange address,” said Jack Seeley, who oversees the Beaumont chapter. “That doesn’t include Vidor or Bridge City.”

The international organization began in 2012 and had grown to more than 250 chapters in six years. The local chapter began about 10 years ago. Last weekend they delivered bed No. 2,500 for the tri-county area.

Members of the Rotary Club of Port Arthur and the 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont help deliver beds in March. (Courtesy photo)

But with a base in Beaumont, Seeley is looking to expand. This week he spoke in Liberty County. He also has plans to initiate chapters in Chambers County, Baytown, Orange and Port Arthur.

“This is just a goal of mine. No one has told me to do it, it’s just something I’d like to do,” he said. “We can’t seem to keep up. Our waiting list keeps growing.”

It’s something he’s done before. In 2020, Seeley helped start a chapter in Sulphur, Louisiana. Months later, the area was ravaged by Hurricane Laura.

“They were almost blown off the map, so they couldn’t build anything for a while,” Seeley said. “They started it in a church, and the church had severe damage, as did the core team. They had damage to all of their homes. And of course in a disaster like that, people are trying to take care of food, clothing and shelter. It’s about six months before you start thinking about beds.”

Seeley said the local chapter receives approximately 100 requests for beds each month. Volunteers build and deliver beds, which are constructed in a manner where they can be used as bunk beds.

Beds are built on the second Saturday of each month and delivered the following Saturday.

Seeley said up to 3 percent of children 17 and younger do not have a bed of their own — defined as children sleeping with siblings or relatives, on couches or in chairs or on the floor.

That hardship has now been eliminated for two more children in Orange.

For Rev. Bennie Smith, being able to watch a member of his congregation benefit from the organization was a blessing.

“It felt great,” he said. “The beds are beautiful, they’re sturdy, they are strong, and they should last a very long time.”

Smith said he intends to have the church’s Men’s Group become regular volunteers.

“If that’s construction, if that’s in delivery, we’re going to be in there somewhere,” he said. “I think it’s a very important ministry and I’m glad we are going to be able to be a part of it.”

For more information about Sleep in Heavenly Peace, call 409-718-0036.

— Written by Monique Batson