Once strangers, Rik Roberts and Scott Stooksbury are now working side by side to provide children a good night’s rest. After discovering their similar interests, the Bartow residents established Sleep in Heavenly Peace’s Etowah Valley Chapter in 2018.
“While attending mandatory training in Idaho with SHP, Rik and I ran into one another,” said Stooksbury, president of Synergy Wealth Management Inc. “We didn't know one another, however we were both there to start our own chapter. We decided to combine our resources and form the Etowah Valley Chapter.
“Why SHP? Who wouldn't want to be a part of a charity that helps children, especially getting children off the floor into their own beds. We don't just give these kids a bed, we give them hope, dreams, safety, comfort, self-worth, etc.”
Sharing Stooksbury’s passion for Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Roberts was inspired to create an Etowah Valley Chapter after viewing an episode of “Returning the Favor” with Mike Rowe on Facebook in February 2018 that highlighted the nonprofit. Searching for a new service outlet, the woodworker felt this outreach was in his “wheelhouse.”
“They were so overwhelmed with responses to the ‘RTF’ episode that it took several months to get things going with them, but by November, I was flying out to Twin Falls, Idaho, for chapter president training,” Roberts said. “It was at this training where I was writing out my name tag that a voice behind me asked ‘You're from Cartersville? Heck, I'm from Cartersville!’
“This was when I first met my co-president, Scott Stooksbury. It turns out that we both showed up to training and had started the process of forming a chapter here. Scott was mailing the paperwork from his office in Kennesaw even though he lives in Cartersville, so SHP never connected the two of us.”
Based in Cartersville, the Etowah Valley Chapter serves children in need residing in Bartow, Floyd and north Cobb. During three build days since February, local volunteers have constructed 40 twin-size bunk beds.
“We have seen, nationally, that about 2-3% of kids are in need of proper beds,” said Roberts, a partner at ProQuality Lab in Cartersville. “Some sleep [on] floors or couches, others share crowded beds. Whatever the need, we estimate that 5,000 kids in our coverage area have need of beds.
“Today, our goal is to deliver all of the bunks we have already constructed. To do this, we need to raise about $3,000 to buy more mattresses, get more bedding donations, particularly comforters and pillows, and get the word out to the folks that need our help. Our goal for the rest of the year is to build 160 more bunks — 200 total for 2019.”
As of Wednesday, the Etowah Valley Chapter’s volunteers had transported 11 beds, with about seven set for delivery June 22. The beds’ materials and mattresses are purchased with donated funds, and the bedding — pillows, sheets, comforters and blankets — is courtesy of the community’s contributions.
For Stooksbury, meeting the nonprofit’s recipients is an eye-opening, emotion-filled experience.
“Our first delivery was at subsidized housing,” he said. “The kids were sleeping with their mom and on the couch and having a tough time making ends meet. They didn't even run the air conditioner, which is understandable. Obviously, the children were very excited and helped bring in stuff.
“It's hard not to get emotional when doing this because you know just know what it means for them to have their own bed and identity. Yes, the parents are always very appreciative of our efforts. I think one of the keys to life is being selfless and giving to others in need, and this organization checked off all the boxes for me. I love our little chapter and helping people.”
The Etowah Valley Chapter’s third build day took shape on SHP’s Bunks Across America June 15. During the national outreach event, Roberts reported more than 100 chapters built over 2,700 bunks with an excess of 8,600 volunteers.
“The purpose of BAA was to bring communities together across the country and show that SHP has many chapters, but is one family,” Roberts said. “We were also able to attract a number of national sponsors, including Lowe's, CAT Footwear and Lucid mattresses. One volunteer told me she had fun and was happy that she learned to use a drill.”
Constructed from two-by-fours, two-by-sixes and one-by-fours, the beds are built efficiently, using an assembly line process.
“We precut the wood to make it easier on the build day,” Roberts said. “The volunteers help by sanding the wood, tapping them in a die to mark the places to drill and drilling the wood. Then they go to an assembly station where the headboards and footboards are assembled.
“On a separate line, the side rails are assembled. Afterward, all of the parts are stained and branded with our logo. How fast depends on the number of volunteers. The crew at BAA built 15 in four hours with 21 volunteers.”
Taking part in Bunks Across America with her 17-year-old son, James, Cartersville resident Christina Thumma was delighted to spend time with him, helping others.
“I feel every kid should have their own bed,” Thumma said. “… I did not know there was such a need out there for this — was very shocked and proud to help.
“Rik and [volunteer] Andy [Hobson] are such great guys and helped us,” she said, referring to receiving guidance in drilling, sanding and assembling the beds. “We started with just plain lumber and went all the way to a finished bunk bed.”
As a mother of three between the ages of 2 and 10, Kaytlyn Armstrong said the organization’s mission “touched my heart immediately.” Actively involved in the chapter’s efforts, the Kingston resident enjoys spreading awareness about the nonprofit and volunteering at build days, like the recent Bunks Across America.
“When I heard that Rik and Scott teamed up to start a SHP chapter here in Bartow County, I was immediately interested in finding ways to help out. Rik has been a friend of my family for years. This cause fits his personality well, because he has a passion for woodworking. And being a father himself, he has a heart for helping children in need.”
Reaching out to the community, the Etowah Valley Chapter is seeking groups to financially assist its efforts. Stooksbury said they are fortunate to be supported by various sponsors, such as Georgia Pacific and McWhorter Capital Partners.
For more information about SPH, to volunteer or request a bunk bed, visit www.shpbeds.org or the Etowah Valley Chapter’s Facebook page.