It was almost the night before Christmas, but the children couldn’t contemplate being nestled in their beds awaiting Santa Claus or anyone else. Because they didn’t have beds.
“They lost their beds, their TV — everything,” Tiffany McNeal said Saturday of the electrical fire last March in the Aberdeen apartment she shared with her four children.
The mother and the kids — twin 14-year-old girls and boys ages 9 and 10 — were placed in a shelter before relocating in June into an apartment in the same three-story complex. But the fire caused $10,000 in damages, according to the state fire marshal. Without money for new beds, the kids had been sleeping on the floor — until there was a knock at the door Saturday morning.
The children threw on their coats and ran outside to find four volunteers with lumber and equipment to assemble two bunk beds on the spot and make them up with new sheets, mattresses, pillows, pillow cases and bedspreads — butterfly and unicorn designs for the girls, camouflage and sports themes for the boys.
The volunteers were from the Maryland chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit group that launched in Idaho in 2012. “So many great charities provide clothing, meals and toys to families in need,” the organization’s website says. “But as wonderful as this aid is, few organizations offer suitable beds and bedding to the kids in these families.”
“No kid sleeps on the floor in our town” is the nonprofit’s motto.
Karin DuBois of Jarrettsville said she came upon the organization’s Facebook page last fall and immediately felt a connection. She started the Maryland chapter — the state’s first — a few months ago.
“And now we’re starting to take off,” said DuBois, who has worked in a number of jobs, including rehabilitating and flipping houses, but said she finds special meaning in volunteer work.
“Walmart seems to be our biggest sponsor, and Lowe’s in Abingdon is helping with discounted wood,” she said. “Right now we’ve raised about $3,000.”
But demand is outpacing supply.
DuBois, the organization’s co-president, said a Catholic charity recently identified 10 families in need of beds, and that’s on top of 15 families referred by Harford County social services officials. The organization’s website has pages for people to volunteer, request beds or make donations.
“There’s no way I can handle all of Maryland,” DuBois said. “We’re hoping somebody else comes on.”
McNeal was connected to Sleep in Heavenly Peace by Harford County social services.
The original intent was to surprise the kids with the beds.
“We decided to do a Secret Santa this year so we picked them,” DuBois said. “Normally everybody would know we were coming.”
But the children became suspicious Friday night.
“They were wondering why did everything have to be taken out of their rooms,” their mother said. “They’re nosy.”
So she told them they would have beds in time for Christmas Eve.
“We made the whole thing,” said Kristyn Ferraro, who is DuBois’ daughter and co-president of the group. “We had to cut it, sand it and stain it,” she said as she stood over one of the bunk beds.
Christmas music was playing in the living room, where a tree was decorated. Inside their room, the two boys lounged on their new bed.
“It’s a happy early Christmas,” the 10-year-old said from the top bunk.