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Volunteers literally make the beds

40 beds made from scratch so Ukrainian refugee kids have a place to sleep

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Smooth, assemble, stain, repeat.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/07/2022 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Smooth, assemble, stain, repeat.

Blocks of wood passed from hand to hand, sander to drill, until a pile of headboards, footboards and bed rails had built up.

The mission: create 40 beds for Ukrainian children in Manitoba. Roughly 50 people gathered in Jim Gauthier Chevrolet’s parking lot to do so Wednesday, under the direction of non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Volunteers work on building beds at Jim Gauthier auto group on McPhillips Street.

There’s far more demand than supply.

“All the beds we’re building right now are spoken for,” said Jim Thiessen, co-president of the charity’s Manitoba chapter.

“These families that are arriving are arriving with nothing,” Thiessen said. “We want to make sure that… at the very least, the children have some place to sleep.”

More than 4,600 Ukrainians have visited Manitoba’s reception centre since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a provincial spokesperson. Approximately 2,700 Ukrainians have registered for Manitoba Health cards.

Thiessen didn’t have a specific number of Ukrainians in need of child beds. However, the charity’s wait list is 88 kids long — excluding the newcomers.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jim Thiessen, Sleep in Heavenly Peace co-chair of the Manitoba chapter, wants to make sure all children arriving in the province have a place to sleep.

“We’re never without a waiting list, that’s the problem,” Thiessen said.

He estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 Manitoba children don’t have a bed.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace committed to building 60 twin size beds for newcomer Ukrainians. The beds, which cost $350 to build, are made for youths ages three through 17. They come with donated mattresses, bedding and pillows.

The volunteer-run organization chose 60 beds to “make sure that we fill the needs of the local community as well,” Thiessen said.

It built the frames last May. Bill Reynolds, 64, volunteered at both events.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sandy Watson and Gina Macri take headboards out of the staining tank.

“No kid sleeps on the floor in our town,” the retiree said. “I can’t think of a better thing to do than try and help people.”

Jim Gauthier, head of Jim Gauthier Automotive Group, said he’d heard about the charity on the radio. He asked for more information, and soon, he and Thiessen were talking.

His company sponsored the 40-bed build on its McPhillips Street location’s parking lot, bringing the total of beds for Ukrainian refugees to 100.

“(It’s) not going to solve the whole problem,” Gauthier said. “They’re going to need more beds.”

Sleep in Heavenly Peace is planning another three or four bed building events in the fall, but the end products won’t be specifically for Ukrainians, Thiessen said.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Volunteers stain side rails.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has given out around $200,000 worth of mattresses in Manitoba, according to Joanne Lewandowski, president of the organization’s Manitoba provincial council.

“Manitoba has been extremely, extremely generous,” Lewandowski said, adding the Congress has raised nearly half a million dollars for refugees.

Ukrainian newcomers can stay at a Winnipeg hotel for two weeks upon arrival. They’ve been finding longer-term residences in areas like Winnipeg, Winkler and Steinbach.

They can pick up housewares at 211 Hutchings St. and other supplies, including food and hygiene products, at 935 Main St.

Dry goods like rice, pasta and canned foods are needed, as is baby food, Lewandowski said. People can drop off donations at 935 Main St.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A completed children’s bed.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace’s Manitoba chapter is looking for volunteers and shares information via its Facebook page.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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