Bruce Crenshaw believes no child should have to worry about where they are going to sleep.
So, thanks to him and many others, youngsters the nation over are sleeping in peace.
Crenshaw is the director of the Texas-Fort Worth Chapter of the national organization known as Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Its mission is to make sure children have a warm bed every night.
“For any child 3-17 years of age who does not have a bed, or is sleeping in a less than ideal situation, we will do our best to provide beds for those children,” said Crenshaw, whose chapter is based out of Burleson.
Luke and Heidi Mickelson started Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) in 2012 in Idaho. It started small, but by 2017 there were seven chapters.
In 2018, SHP was featured on Mike Rowe’s Facebook show, “Returning the Favor.”
Crenshaw was watching.
“Things kind of blew up. SHP added 130 chapters nationwide in 2018 and now have nearly 250, and we are continuing to grow in the U.S. as well as Canada, Bermuda, and the Bahamas,” he said. “We will hopefully see some other countries added as well when we can get past the COVID situation.”
The growth included a chapter that Crenshaw started.
Crenshaw said the mission statement/motto of SHP is “No kid sleeps on the floor in my town.”
An overlooked need
The local chapter, which now covers a large area of the Metroplex, has delivered beds throughout Johnson and Tarrant counties, along with places such as Granbury, Rio Vista, Waxahachie, Dallas, Irving, Newark and just about every area in between.
“We also have a Dallas North Chapter that helps with some of those deliveries. They are a new chapter, but as we partner together we will be able to cover more area,” Crenshaw said.
SHP can provide a single bed or a bunk bed if needed.
“Many families are struggling financially and cannot provide beds. They also tend to be limited on space,” he said. “So when we have multiple children in a home needing beds we will provide bunks. ... When we deliver, we deliver the bed, a new mattress for that bed, brand new bedding, and a pillow. The child can literally crawl into bed when we leave their home.”
An online application or request must be submitted through the website www.shpbeds.org, he said.
“Until I started working with SHP I had no idea there were really that many kids without beds. We are finding that 2-3 percent of the population are children ages 3-17 who have no bed,” Crenshaw said. “If you talk to your CPS case workers I think they all would agree beds are tough to come by.”
Volunteer Dawn Holt echoed those thoughts.
“I couldn’t believe that there were so many children that did not have a bed to sleep in, especially in a fairly affluent area. I contacted the president (Crenshaw) and went to a build day,” she said. “Since then, I became a permanent volunteer. There are so many ways for a person to help out, and all have a huge immediate impact on a child’s life.”
Since September, Crenshaw said his SHP chapter has received requests for approximately 300 beds, and 25-30% of those requests have come from CPS or similar organizations requesting beds for families.
“Really unbelievable,” he said. “Beds are often overlooked. So often we see kids hungry and we want to help. Many organizations and schools do a great job at trying to battle hunger among children. ... But we many times don’t think about things like beds. I am just thankful we can play a small part. To have a warm comfortable place to sleep is a little, yet huge thing for a child.”
Crenshaw stressed that a safe place to sleep helps children get good rest. Good rest allows for better learning. Better learning leads to better education. Better education leads to making the world a better place.
“Seeing a child receive their bed, or watching the parents, grandparents, etc. when they see their child crawl into a bed is not something easily described. It is much better experienced,” he said. “It blows my mind that so many children in our communities do not have beds. It is something I take for granted. I have always had a bed. My kids have always had a bed.
“But so many do not. And to see them so excited to have a place that is warm and comfortable to call their own is pretty special.”
How to help
Like many organizations, SHP was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Crenshaw said his chapter’s delivery numbers dropped a little, and they even shut down for a few months, but they were still able to deliver 220 beds.
Altogether since his chapter started they have delivered over 600 beds.
“We hope to deliver 600 more in 2021. We currently have 170 children on our waiting list,” he said.
Crenshaw added that the work they do and the beds they deliver would not be possible without the help of the community.
“We are so grateful for all the businesses, churches, and individuals who have played a role in helping,” he said. “We have an amazing team of volunteers who regularly help with build and delivery days (our core team), and many other people who have stepped in to help with a single build day or delivery day. We have been blessed with so many people who share this vision and have a heart for helping children.”
Crenshaw asks that anyone who is interested in helping to check the Fort Worth chapter’s Facebook page.