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Ja'Niya, right, hugs her younger sister, Ja'Miya, on her new bed from Sleep in Heavenly Peace. [KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH/TIMESDAILY]

How to get involved

Sleep in Heavenly Peace builds bunk beds and single beds for kids ages 3-17. Sponsoring a bunk bed costs $350, while a single is $175.

SHP needs twin-sized pillows, sheets and comforters. Donations can be made through shpbeds.org, or through the Shoals chapter’s Amazon Wish List.

To inquire about volunteering or hosting a build day, contact Shelly Hollis at shelly.hollis@shpbeds.org.

Build volunteers need to be at least 12 years old.

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Like most kids their age, 8-year-old Ja’Niya and 3-year-old Ja’Miya love to play.

A pink play kitchen stands in the corner of Ja’Miya’s room, right next to her new twin-sized bed. She loves the emoji comforter and heart-covered pillow that lay neatly across the mattress.

Until a few weeks ago, the sisters had been sleeping on their mattresses on the floor after a fire burned up the new beds their mother’s uncle had just bought them.

They never had a chance to sleep in them.

“We had to start all over again,” said their mother, Tetella Johnson. “It’s been a rough road.”

Most of us will crawl into bed tonight ready to relax and recharge for the next day. But there are still many children in the Shoals who will not have the same opportunity.

The Shoals chapter of the Idaho-based nonprofit Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) has changed that for Ja’Niya, Ja’Miya and about 10 other local children since they hit the ground running in late July.

SHP’s core team in the Shoals has spent the last few weeks training and gathering donations to build beds — complete with bedding and pillows — which they deliver in person to local children in need.

According to the organization's president, Shelly Hollis, a new bed is more than just a comfortable place to lie down. The longtime educator knows firsthand the impact a good night’s sleep can have on children’s health and well-being, as well as their performance in school.

That’s what makes SHP’s mission so important to her.

“It’s just amazing what that one small thing can do in the life of a child,” she said.

These are also reasons that led middle school principals Stephanie and Kevin Wieseman to join the cause after attending their first informational meeting this summer.

Since then, they have participated in builds and deliveries, but it’s the deliveries that really touch their hearts.

“To give a child their own private space where they can rest — it’s just an awesome feeling,” said Stephanie Wieseman. “But as educators, from that side of it, we just think, man, this isn’t just giving them a comfortable place to sleep. … This helps them to have a better opportunity to learn, to grow and to do things.”

All bed requests go through the national website, shpbeds.org, before they reach the nearest chapter. But for Johnson, it was only a couple hours before she received a call from the Shoals chapter looking to help her.

“They had got back to me pretty quickly, and I was in shock,” she said. “I never thought anybody was going to reach out to me.”

Sonia Hollandsworth is a member of the core team who also helps go through applications. She was among the delivery team that brought the new beds to Ja’Niya and Ja’Miya.

She said the experience has a special place in her heart, and the girls’ excitement and eagerness to help set up their new beds made it even sweeter.

“They never stopped smiling the whole time we were there,” she said. “As we were leaving, Ja'Niya just went around the room and was just hugging everybody and thanking them. It was just pure joy.”

Those smiles, she said, are forever ingrained in her mind.

“(The volunteers) were showing them how to make the beds up and all that,” Johnson added. “I was really (grateful) that they took the time and effort to come out here and, basically, just bless us with that because they didn’t have nothing.”

The bed requests keep coming in. By late August, there were still about 30 outstanding requests.

SHP hosted its first public build day Saturday to build those 30 beds — made possible by Tiger Shredding in Florence.

“We set up an Amazon Wish List, and that’s been great,” Hollis said. “People have been able to just go and click and send us bedding that way. Some churches have been doing some bedding drives, so that’s been really helpful.

“We’ve not had to purchase any bedding because of those great donations from individuals or churches or organizations doing it for us.”

Several volunteers noted how SHP has opened their eyes to a need in their community they never knew was so great.

“I’m fully aware of homelessness. I’m fully aware that there are kids living in poverty and need food, but this was something that I had not thought of before, and I think it’s something that is certainly addressing a real need in our area,” Wieseman said.

Hollandsworth said building the beds has been simpler than she expected.

“That’s one thing I love about this organization is everything’s very thought out,” she said. “It’s very easy, even if you do not have any construction background, like myself. There’s something there for all different kinds of skill sets.”

Johnson said the whole experience was a “blessing.” Watching her daughters receive new beds inspired her to help SHP as soon as she can.

“It was a neat experience, and it was fun,” she said. “As soon as I can get everything down, I want to go back and do some community service for them, definitely. I enjoyed the experience.”

Johnson isn’t the only recipient who’s expressed interest in volunteering. Hollis said others have vowed to give back as well.

“That’s amazing to me, that these people want to give back,” she said. “They’ve been blessed, and they want to be a blessing in return. That does my heart good, too.”

—kendyl.hollingsworth@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5757. Follow on Twitter @TD_KendylH

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