When reading Thrivent Financial magazine one fall day in 2019, Midland County resident Brian Rueger stumbled upon an article titled “Sleep Superheroes.”
The article highlighted a couple who began building bunk beds for children with no place to rest their heads. The couple was working with Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a nonprofit organization based in Twin Falls, Idaho. SHP facilitates the building and distribution of bunk beds throughout the country to families who need them.
Volunteers from Auburn-based Sleep in Heavenly Place build bunk beds for kids without their own beds.The article piqued his interest enough to start asking questions about the organization and whether it was needed in Michigan. But the pandemic start eda few months later and slow him down. Still, he kept researching. His son, Zack Rueger, said he knew from the beginning his dad wouldn’t stop.
“He kept researching into what SHP was. It lit a fire inside of him,” Zack remembers.
Brian was already an active member of his local church and wanted to become more involved with his community.
“I was looking for something that wouldn’t take all of my time, but I could still do,” Brian says. “I thought, ‘There can’t be that much of a need. I can do this and get it done.’ ”
The organization needs volunteers of all skill levels for a Sept. 12 event to build the beds in Midland. The goal is to build 20 beds in one day.He was wrong about the need. When Brian contacted other Michigan SHP chapters, he was surprised at the number of requests. The Lansing chapter alone has requests for 500 bunk beds.
Once he understood the tremendous need, Brian started working. In January 2020, he applied to open a SHP chapter for Bay, Saginaw, and Midland counties. His SHP mentor suggested he focus on one county to start. Brian decided to base the chapter in Auburn and focus on serving Midland County.
By April, Brian had purchased a plane ticket, booked a hotel, and was ready to head to Twin Falls for the training necessary to open a new SHP chapter. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down the country. Brian was unable to attend the training and his plans came to a temporary halt.
Brian Rueger traveled to Sleep in Heavenly Peace headquarters in Idaho to learn about the organization and its mission. Here, he puts a pin in the map to commemorate forming a chapter in Auburn.“It was a letdown for me, I already had people behind me, filling some positions,” Brian says. “I set up a building day at Lowe’s on June 20th to build 20 beds, then the whole world came to an end.”
Delayed but determined, Brian was able to complete his training in July and returned to Michigan ready to build. A core group of friends and family started work and already have completed 15 bunk beds. A new chapter of SHP cannot officially open until 35 bunk beds are built, furnished, and ready to be delivered.
His son, Zack, helps with social media and marketing.
“My dad is not the most technological person,” Zack says. “This is something that I can really help with. I’m not so much hands on with tools, but computers are what I’m good at.”
Despite his misgivings, Zack did pick up some tools and surprised himself by helping to build a bed. “The first build was with our core team, back in July,” Zack says. “Some have been handymen their whole lives, and some have never touched a power tool, it’s such a streamlined process that anyone can do this.”
Brian and Zack hope to opening the community’s eyes to the crisis of children without beds. With the help of friends and family, the father-son duo has created a team dedicated to ensuring children have a soft place to rest their heads. While he’s serving only Midland County now, Brian hopes to expand the program soon to build beds for kids in Bay and Saginaw counties.
The newly-formed chapter of SHP will host its first “Hero Build” on Sept. 12, at His Hands Auto Care, 1550 South Poseyville Road in Midland. The goal is to build 20 bunk beds. Lowe’s Home Improvement is providing the wood as well as employees to guide volunteers through the bed-building process.
SHP-Auburn is requesting volunteers ages 12 and older to come out and help. The Hero Build will be split into two shifts. The first shift is from 8:45 a.m. to noon, with the second shift running 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers are asked to come the day of to sign up and join.
If you are interested in donating bedding, SHP asks for new twin-sized furnishings including mattress covers, pillows, pillowcases, fitted and flat sheets, and comforters. Mattresses are also a necessity and can be purchased for donation at SHPbeds.org-Auburn.
To request a bunk bed to be delivered to children in need, go to SHPbeds.org and the site will direct your request to its respective location. For all other inquiries about how to become more involved with SHP-Auburn, contact Brian Rueger at Brian.Rueger@shpbeds.org or head to the Auburn chapter Facebook page at Facebook.com/SHPAuburnMI.