Show You Care: Volunteers build beds for families in need

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Volunteers tackle service projects all the time. But the work usually involves cleaning up yards or maybe painting houses. But organizations connected to the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids did something a bit different to kick off what they hope will become an annual community service project.

Volunteers from three organizations connected to the Sisters of Mercy work on building beds at a Marion warehouse. This was the project for the first Circle the City with Mercy community service event.

They built beds.

It’s probably a pretty safe bet that the 50 volunteers from Mt. Mercy University, Mercy Medical Center and the Catherine McAuley Center had never built a bed before.

But there they were at a Marion warehouse sawing and sanding their way through enough lumber to make 40 bunk or twin beds for kids in need.

And it’s a need that most in the community don’t think about.

But Gretchen Holley started a local chapter of a group called Sleep in Heavenly Peace just last March. And she thinks about it a lot.

“One family (getting beds) has three boys sleeping on toddler beds. They’re ages 4, 6 & 8 and it’s two toddler beds push together. So we want to get them beds as quick as we can,” Holley said.

Holley says the national organization started in Idaho in 2012 and this was the first built-a-bed project in eastern Iowa.

Volunteers build the beds and the sponsoring organizations buy the lumber, mattresses and bedding at a discount. Each completed bed is valued at about $150.

All the volunteers doing the work had connections to organizations that trace their beginnings to three Sisters of Mercy nuns who came to Cedar Rapids in 1875 to begin teaching.

Each organization sponsors service project events throughout the year.

But they’d had never done anything before as a group to celebrate the Sisters of Mercy anniversary which is July 22nd.

So this year marked a first “Circle the City with Mercy” event that they’ll repeat every year near the anniversary date—a community-wide service project.

Cathy Flanagan, a volunteer from the Mercy Medical Center urology department, said organizers certainly started with something different.

“You think about kids sleeping on the floor—five of them on one mattress. I thought it was a worthwhile project,” Flanagan said.

Holley said various organizations helped locate families with issues of sharing beds or even having kids sleep on the flood. They have about 30 requests and will keep the extra beds built by the Sisters of Mercy organizations as more requests come in.

And even the final step in the bed assembly process was somewhat unique.

The Sleep in Heavenly Peace group puts the organization’s logo on each wooden bed with a branding iron heated in a fire pit.

Not many service projects call for using a branding irons and there was no shortage of volunteers for that last step.