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Sleep in Heavenly Peace: Sweet dreams are made of stain and sawdust

Elaine and Ed Snyder make youth beds Tuesday in their work space for their chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace in New Sewickley Township, Beaver County. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

NEW SEWICKLEY TWP, Beaver County — Sweet dreams can come from the most unlikely places. For hundreds of children, a good night’s rest stems from a workshop at Hosanna Industries in a Beaver County township.

It’s here that Ed and Elaine Snyder of Mars, along with a group of volunteers, sand, stain and drill the wood components that make up single and bunk beds that are donated to children, ages 3 to 17, who are without a bed of their own.

The Snyders started the Mars Chapter of the national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), when they learned of an acute need for beds for children. Theirs is one of 242 chapters in the country.

Elaine Snyder said their son and daughter-in-law, Shawn and Jackie Snyder, were involved with Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Maryland. “They mentioned it to me. ‘This is what you old people should do.’ I said, ”OK, we’ll do that.’“

She said she and Ed are retired and were looking for something to do. They started their chapter in February 2021 along with their friend, David Nock of Cranberry Township.

Building beds seemed like a good choice for Ed, his wife said. “Ed built our house, a picnic shelter, a tree house, just about everything.”

The Snyders and Nock went to Idaho to Sleep in Heavenly Peace’s national headquarters for training.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace was founded in Idaho in 2012 by Luke Mickelson who serves as its executive director. He started by building a single bunk bed for a family. Now the nonprofit has 242 chapters in four countries. It estimates that by the end of 2020 it had built and delivered 60,448 beds.

The Snyders and Nock learned how to build beds to the charity’s standards. “They turn out exactly the same way. We build singles and bunk beds. We only build twin beds,” she said.

Elaine Snyder said, “The beds all have to be handmade by us. We don’t take donations of beds. We are not allowed.”

Ed Snyder said, “They’re made of all white pine. A single bed is 39 inches by 75 inches and is 28 inches high. They all have to be alike.” He provided his own miter saw, drill presses and sanders.

The chapter doesn’t take special orders — all beds are twin-bed size. Each bed costs between $200 and $250 to assemble.

The chapter uses donations to buy the wood in the form of 2-by-4’s, 2-by-6’s and 1-by-4’s from a big box home supply store. The chapter solicits bedding, pillows, blankets, pillow cases, comforters and sheets, to complete the bed setup. The chapter purchases mattresses, again using donations.

The Snyders believe it is important for children to have new bedding to go with their new beds because often they are sleeping on floors, couches and chairs using hand-me-down blankets or no bedding at all. A new bed and blankets can provide at least a minimum sense of security.

“It’s for their stability, their physical needs and mental stability,” Elaine Snyder said. “If you are a child and you don’t have a bed in your house, you don’t feel you belong.”

She uses an app called Next Door to round up volunteers for sanding and staining sessions which take place in the Hosanna Industries space from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays. The wood is sanded and then stained in a solution of vinegar and steel wool for 20 seconds which darkens the wood, and holes are drilled for final assembly.

The headboard, foot board and sides are built at Hosanna Industries, but the final assembly is completed at the home of the recipients.

Beds are matched up by going to the Sleep in Heavenly Peace website and filling out a form or through the Center for Community Resources in Butler.

Darren Knox, director of programs for the Center for Community Resources, said, “Anybody that’s in need or has a specific referral can meet with us. We can connect them to help in the community.”

“We’ve referred people to them in the past,” he said.

To qualify as a bed recipient, the adult must be the legal guardian of the child or children receiving the bed and have room for the bed.

The Snyders will take the bed sections to the home and assemble it there. “It’s not unusual to deliver six beds to one house,” said Elaine Snyder.

Last spring, the Mars chapter had a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Hosanna Industries space. Fifteen volunteers sanded, screwed and assembled 14 twin beds during its first bed-building day.

Since then the chapter has built and delivered 201 beds to 89 different families, in single and bunk-bed configurations.

There’s another reason every child should have an individual bed.

"Before Children & Youth Services places a child with a relative or with foster parents, they must have a bed for that child to sleep in, and that magnifies just how important a bed is to the well-being and stability of a child," she said.

The demand for beds waxes and wanes. “It’s pretty hit or miss. We’re rather busy and then it comes to a complete stop, and then all hell will break loose,” Elaine Snyder said.

The Snyders said their next work session has been tentatively scheduled for September.

“We’ve been rather lucky with it. We’ve got a lot of good people who want to work, " said Elaine Snyder.

She said those seeking more information, a way to donate money or bedding, to volunteer or to request a bed should visit www.shpbeds.org/chapter/pa-mars.

The Snyders can be reached via email at elaine.snyder@shpbeds.org.

Elaine and Ed Snyder show an example of a finished bunk bed Tuesday at their work space for their Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter. The bed components are prepared at their Hosanna Industries space, but the beds are assembled at the homes of their young recipients. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle
Each bear represents one child who has received a bed from Elaine and Ed Snyder’s Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter since it was formed last year. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle
Wood is branded and readied to build beds at Elaine and Ed Snyder’s Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter’s work space Tuesday. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

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