Thursday, 09 April 2020 10:29

Sweet Dreams

By Megin Potter | News

“Kids get to see that not all kids have what they have. If you show them this when they’re little, they approach life in a whole different way. They have a different perspective,” -Gail Welter.

“It’s a little thing, but it’s kind of enormous,” said Mike Rowe during one of the most-watched episodes of the Facebook series he hosts, “Returning the Favor.”

The program, now in its fourth season, recognizes people across the country who are doing charitable work in their communities. 

It changed the life of local resident James Welch, who has in-turn changed the lives of many more. 

Making the Beds

After retiring from serving as a combat medic in the Army National Guard for 26 years, Welch was looking for a way to continue giving back to the community. 

That’s when he watched an episode of “Returning the Favor” about an organization based in Idaho called Sleep in Heavenly Peace that builds beds for children in need.

In awe of all the good this group was doing, Welch decided he wanted to be a part of it and within a year had started a chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Mechanicville. 

Beginning with a grant from the All Over Albany Foundation, at their first build, Welch and a team of volunteers made four beds. In 2019, they supplied 205 beds to local children in need. 

Each bed is made of pine lumber, can be stacked to create bunkbeds, and is dipped in vinegar to ward off bedbugs. In addition to the frame, Sleep in Heavenly Peace provides a twin-size mattress, pillows, sheets and a comforter to each child. 

Welch currently has 160 requests for beds and more come in every day. 

The Sleep Advantage

Getting a good night’s sleep is a basic human need that too often goes unmet. 

At least once a month, Welch, who works as a full-time truck driver, drives a trailer of tools and supplies to the location where a company or an individual has sponsored a build (as there is no permanent location for Sleep in Heavenly Peace to work out of). 

Volunteers of all ages then spend the day building under the supervision of those trained in the process. 

“You can have zero experience. That’s fine. You can never have touched a tool in your life and we’ll show you how. Not only can you go from not ever having used a saw to using one, but we’ll teach you how to be pretty proficient at it by the time you’re done for the day,” said Welch.

Some of the most rewarding experiences are when children who’ve volunteered to make the beds also help deliver them, he said. Often, the kids receiving them want to assemble them, too.

“They have a blast with it! When we leave, they have the biggest smiles on their faces.” 

Kids are Our Future

“Kids get to see that not all kids have what they have. If you show them this when they’re little, they approach life in a whole different way. They have a different perspective,” said Gail Welter. 

She first learned about Sleep in Heavenly Peace when Saratoga socialite Michelle Riggi posted that she was sponsoring a build on her Facebook page. Thinking that it would make a good article for her online blog, “Life as I See It,” Welter was immediately moved to help.

Not only has she donated $350 to build a bunkbed, but she’s started collecting donations from others. Her goal is to be able to collect $2100 – enough to sponsor a build. 

“The group is just really amazing. I love that the money stays right here in the community. This is really changing lives. I like how concrete it is. Everybody that I’ve talked to has said, ‘I want to do a build!” It’s kind-of a fun thing to do, it’s a great team-building fundraiser - I just like everything about it,” she said.

An Awakening 

Fulfilling requests for beds is based on location, not determined by income. 

“Income is not always relevant. You never know what the circumstances are that determine someone’s need for something like this,” said Welter.

Applications describe a variety of reasons why kids need a bed, said Welch. One example is a mother who escaped an abusive situation with her children.

“She broke the cycle of abuse but she lost everything when she left. We helped her by making bunkbeds. She was so energetic and so positive. Then, we decided to adopt her kids for Christmas, so they would have some presents, too. It was simple, basic stuff that they asked for. Something as simple as food is something that some people just don’t have,” said Welch.

Because working more than a 17-mile radius from the 12118-zip code is prohibitive, satellite groups are already popping up so more people in need can be helped. 

In addition to financial assistance, volunteers and donations of mattresses and bedding are always needed. For more information, find Sleep in Heavenly Peace on Facebook @SHPMechanicville.

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