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Volunteers build welcoming beds

Helping Ukrainian refugee children part of ongoing community effort

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Thanks to the work of some dedicated volunteers, 60 newly arrived children from war-torn Ukraine now have a place to rest their heads at night in Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/05/2022 (193 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Thanks to the work of some dedicated volunteers, 60 newly arrived children from war-torn Ukraine now have a place to rest their heads at night in Winnipeg.

The charitable organization Sleep in Heavenly Peace Winnipeg (SHPW) brought together more than 50 volunteers on Saturday to build twin-size beds for Ukrainian families in need.

“Giving a much-needed item, like a bed, to a child is an easy concept to get behind. But what also appeals to me is that it involves community coming together to make that happen,” said SHPW president Jim Thiessen.

Anton Khomenko (left) and Alex Tarasov, who recently arrived in Winnipeg from Ukraine, help build beds during the annual Beds For Kids event. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I believe it takes community to make a better community. We had over 50 volunteers show up. We started at 10:15 a.m. and by noon we’re done.”

Also involved in the charitable efforts were Dufresne Furniture and Appliances, who donated mattresses for the hand-built bed frames, and the manufacturing company Cadorath, who hosted the event at their property on the 2000 block of Logan Avenue.

The volunteers were scattered about the Cadorath parking lot on Saturday, sanding wood, drilling together component parts, and staining the finished product.

Music played from a speaker and tents were set up where the volunteers could enjoy refreshments and food in the shade.

Thiessen said he founded SHPW in 2020. It was the first Canadian chapter of the charitable organization, which was launched in the United States roughly eight years prior. Their aim is to provide free beds to children who don’t have one.

After spending 28 years working as a police officer, Thiessen said he had seen the need in Winnipeg firsthand.

Ralph Schnell dips a wooden headboard in an environmentally friendly wood stain made of vinegar and scouring pads during the annual Beds for Kids event. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I saw it all the time: kids sleeping on the floor. And I thought, let’s do something about that,” Thiessen said.

After the war broke out in Ukraine, and the Canadian government signalled its intention to resettle refugees fleeing the conflict, Thiessen said he realized SHPW was perfectly positioned to help meet a new need.

“We knew there was going to be a number of Ukrainian families coming to Winnipeg. We suspected there was going to be a need. So we reached out to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and told them who we were and how we wanted to help, and it turned out that was exactly their need,” Thiessen said.

“They knew they would need beds. In fact, they asked, ‘How many can you give?’ Our beds are just supposed to be for children, so we said, ‘We can commit to 60 beds.’ That’s what the event today was all about. Getting together with our community partners and building 60 beds for Ukrainian families.”

Soon after SHPW connected with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Dufresne “jumped right on board” and donated the needed mattresses, Thiessen said.

SHPW will install the beds in homes in the near future — a process which takes roughly 15 minutes — and Thiessen said any of the volunteers involved in building them will be invited along.

This year all 60 beds will be donated to children who recently arrived from Ukraine. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“That’s the magical moment. That’s what really hooks people, because you’re able to see the look on the child’s face when they see their bed for the first time. It’s incredible,” Thiessen said.

“This is what we do. This is what we’re good at. It was a perfect fit. Our organization, working with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, partnering with other community organizations and businesses, made this happen.”

Mark Dufresne, CEO of The Dufresne Group said in a written statement that the company looks forward to “continuing our partnership with (SHPW) to help ensure even more kids and families in need have a safe, comfortable place to sleep.”

Thiessen said that ensuring every child in Winnipeg has a bed to sleep in at night remains an uphill battle — but one he and his organization are committed to making a reality.

“The problem is so great. We estimate here in Winnipeg… that two to three per cent of the child population needs a bed. Based on the last census, that’s three to four thousand kids,” Thiessen said.

“We’ve managed to make a dent in that. We’ve put in about three hundred beds so far. But there’s a long way to go.”

Patrick Boenders (left) and Karen Guercio drill holes in the headboards. The volunteers were scattered about the Cadorath parking lot on Saturday, sanding wood, drilling together component parts, and staining the finished product. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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