116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HIAWATHA — The Sleep in Heavenly Peace warehouse was a whirl this weekend with the sound of power tools, the banter of high school students and the feeling of making a difference as over 100 beds were built for kids without them in Cedar Rapids.
The project was organized by a team of students at Iowa BIG, a project-based learning program. Students formed an assembly line Saturday at the warehouse, 1723 Hawkeye Drive in Hiawatha, to sand, cut and stain wood to assemble the beds.
“Up to 5,000 kids in Cedar Rapids don’t have beds,” said Grace Ironside, 18, a senior at Prairie High School and an Iowa BIG student. “Kids who have a bed have increased self-esteem and feel more confident. It’s not just physical. It really helps them mentally and emotionally.”
The build originally was scheduled for spring 2020, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 125 students volunteered to help, including students from Kennedy, Washington, Jefferson Linn-Mar, Marion, Prairie, Xavier and Center Point-Urbana high schools.
Iowa BIG students also raised almost $3,000, and 326 items were purchased off their Amazon wish list, including mattresses, comforters, sheets and pillows.
The Iowa BIG build day was one of the biggest citywide build days hosted by a chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit organization with locations across the country. The founder of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Luke Mickelson, wanted to see how it could be replicated by other chapters, according to Nikki Wilcox, an Iowa BIG teacher.
“Go big or go home,” Ironside said.
Building beds alongside her peers is “eye opening and so fun,” Ironside said. Although she at first was skeptical about using power tools, “there’s a job for everybody” who volunteers with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Ironside said.
“A bed seems so simple and something everyone should have,” said Bailey Rima, 17, a senior at Prairie High. “Knowing some people don’t get to sleep in a bed at night is really sad.”
Anna Neumann, 17, a junior at Washington High, said she was “shocked” to learn the number of kids in Cedar Rapids who don’t have beds. “At least I can do this,” she said.
Iowa BIG and Prairie High alumni Cameron Childs also helped jump start the project. Childs, now a student at Kirkwood Community College, was sad not to be able to see the project come to fruition under his leadership, Ironside said.
Iowa BIG students are meeting many academic standards through this project, Wilcox said, including Language Arts, business, marketing and finance.
“They don’t feel like they’re in class, but they’ve learned,” she said.
Carsyn Levi, 17, a senior at Prairie High, said working on this project at Iowa BIG has reinforced her desire to become an elementary school teacher.
Mickelson traveled to Iowa from Twin Falls, Idaho, for the build day. Mickelson founded Sleep in Heavenly Peace in 2012. Since then, the organization has over 200 chapters across the United States and has built over 35,000 beds.
Iowa BIG students will help deliver the beds later this spring and summer.
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