About 80 volunteers are needed to help reach the goal of building 20 bunk beds for local families in need during a community event scheduled Saturday, Feb. 23.
The Windermere Police Department Foundation Inc. and Windermere Wine & Dine are sponsoring a community event to build bunk beds for West Orange families in need.
The community event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 23, at Windermere Town Hall, will benefit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit organization that provides beds for families in need in the Greater Orlando area, including West Orange County.
Windermere Police Chief David Ogden is spearheading the event, and as of Thursday of last week, 15 volunteers had signed up, but about 65 more are needed to complete the goal of constructing 20 bunk beds in three hours.
“I thought it would be an excellent community event and a great charity to get involved in,” Ogden said. “I learned there are so many kids in our West Orange County community, Clermont and the south Lake County community who really don’t have beds to sleep in. I was shocked there are so many people living just above the homeless level not considered homeless because they have a house to sleep in and, yet, do not have a bed to sleep in.”
The Windermere Police Department Foundation has contributed by purchasing the beds, ancillary equipment, bedding, sheets and pillows, Ogden said. And SHP will supply all the required tools and wood, so volunteers just need to show up ready to work with a good heart and the ability to swing a hammer, he said.
Once constructed, the beds will be loaded into a truck and taken to a warehouse to await distribution to families in need, Ogden said. The beds always are delivered to families ready for immediate use, said Lake County resident Bill Carleton, president of the local SHP chapter.
“At the moment, we’re the only chapter in Orlando, so we have bed requests from all over the metropolitan area,” Carleton said. “We have about 110 requests right now and just got about 10 more this week. And we have about 80 beds at the moment, so we’re going to get all those delivered in the next few weeks.”
The chapter, which launched in August, often partners with other community organizations and businesses wishing to host a community project. To date, the chapter has built about 120 beds, Carleton said.
“There are different types of families we end up helping,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s single-parent families struggling to make ends meet, and the kids are literally sleeping on the floor with just blankets and pillows. Other times, there are several kids sharing one bed or kids sleeping in the same bed as their mom. We also have cases where children are on an air mattress. But those aren’t too comfortable, and we don’t really consider those suitable.”
Carleton said SHP sometimes gets referrals from social-service agencies requesting help on behalf of a family in need. They also help foster-care or other family-service agencies get help for children at risk of being removed from a family and entering the foster-care system.
“We also get referrals from all kinds of social-service agencies and people on the front lines of society — school counselors, social workers, teachers, sheriff’s offices, Child Protection Services,” he said. “Sometimes, CPS notifies us of parents who are trying to get reunited with their children and going through the steps mandated by the system, one of which is to have a good sleeping situation for the child. We try to prioritize those requests and get them to the front of the queue.”
The local chapter also has helped families who’ve moved to the area with “nothing, or next to nothing” as refugees from hurricanes Michael and Maria, Carleton said.
“We have some families still recovering from Hurricane Michael that happened up in the Panhandle late last year,” he shared. “People ended up dispersing across the state and, really, across the country, but we have a lot of those in Orlando. There’s this one lady who had a great job up there, and her home was severely damaged and declared uninhabitable by FEMA. So she was given a $1,500 check and told she needed to move and find another place for her family to live. She couldn’t find anywhere in her hometown, so she ended up in Orlando, and her kids were on the floor. So we got her some beds.”
During the Feb. 23 community event, Ogden hopes to build 20 bunk beds to aid SHP in its mission.
“It’s just a great way for us to spend some time together and do something that’s really worthwhile for our community,” Ogden said. “And it’s an awesome program with a great mission. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to get behind this. It’s just a good community project.”