Making bunk beds and lifting spirits
There are social safety nets school districts employ to assist students facing food insecurity issues, or those lacking clothing to wear. Ensuring students have a comfortable bed and the opportunity for a good night’s sleep, however, has not garnered the attention it deserves.
Stefanie McAliley, Assistant Athletic Coordinator at Corbett Junior High School, has made it her mission to bring that need to the forefront, energizing her student body to build bunk beds for children who do not have a bed of their own. “We have so many kids that worry about that, and food,” she said. “How can you learn? Kids sleep in class, and it’s 100 percent not their fault.”
She has spearheaded three trips for students at her school over a span of three years, the most recent occasion on March 4, 2023. McAliley and her volunteers, sometimes as many as eighty, spend one Saturday afternoon every semester constructing beds at the San Antonio chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), an organization dedicated to building, assembling and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families in need.
Having her students see the impact of beds first-hand on their classmates invigorated her volunteering base. “ A lot of them have gone to SHP more than once,” McAliley said proudly. “They go back and say, ‘I did that, “ she added that one of her pupils has taken the mission to heart, volunteering six times and now including her parents. “They went and delivered beds on Christmas Eve. Her whole family volunteered and went and did the delivery that day,” Some of the beneficiaries have been SCUC students.
One story told at our Board of Directors meeting by the San Antonio Housing Authority was about Afghan refugees in our city. McAliley said. “They were given a bed and they said it completely changed their lives because they never had one. It made them feel special and safe because they had a place to decompress.”
That recipient, according to McAliley, in turn, donated her bed to someone else when they were able to obtain a house and had furniture donated to them by a local church. McAliley “She said, ‘It helped me out so much. I really wanted to help somebody else,’” The student wanted to “pay it forward” to another family in need.
Handyman skills are not a requirement for anyone willing to help. Volunteers at SHP with carpentry skills assist the students and adults through the process, whether it be sanding, using a drill press, assembling headboards and footboards together or sealing and staining the beds. “They go from station to station to station,” McAliley said. “The kids get to pick which station they want to use first,. stating ‘I want to learn how to use the drills. I want to screw together the headboards,’”
McAliley credits the generosity of area Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, who have stepped up to donate all of the wood needed to construct the beds. Previously, the materials were generated through fundraisers, which she estimates would cost $350 per bunk bed. “We don’t have to do the fundraising for each build anymore,” she said thankfully. “They just need the manpower to set up and put everything together.” Fundraising now is concentrated on bedding, mattresses, pillows and other necessary items for the build.
By her estimation, McAliley believes every student at SCUC who needs a bed of their own has one, thanks to the efforts at SHP. But the work is never done. There will always be someone whose life circumstances have robbed them of a place to lay their head. The end product, though, provides more than just a good night’s rest.
“It provides a sense of hope,” McAliley said. “That’s what they told me, that ‘I can do this. I can stay here and people do care’ . There are opportunities to build beds each month and you can sign-up to deliver beds by going to their website and joining our team.