Shelby Atkison

In the last month or so, I’ve learned a great deal from former Mayor Robert Williams about the branch of Sleep in Heavenly Peace he and a group of his friends are bringing to our community. 

The mission is to decrease the number of children who do not have a bed of their own to sleep in. While this seems like it may not be an issue in our small community, I know first-hand that it is. 

Two years ago, I had taken in two teenage girls who were “homeless” and needed a stable place to stay until they could graduate. 

I remember opening my door to two barefoot, sopping wet girls with red, puffy faces wearing a wave of uncertainty. They stayed with me that night, and every night through the month of May. 

Watching either of them walk across the stage wasn’t going to be a guarantee – in fact, it seemed as if it would be next to impossible for one of them due to such a high number of absences. 

Many Saturday Schools, late nights and safe sleeps later – they made it. But that last part, having a safe place to sleep, was critical to their success in school.

The living arrangements weren’t superior by any means, I had barely been out of college for two years and don’t live in the nicest of houses… but they were grateful, and even proud to have a home of their own. 

I’ll never forget the number of tears that were shed the day we brought home a bed and mattress of their very own. While the two of them still had to share, it was a large step up from the couch and piles of clothes they had been used to sleeping on. 

The development I was able to see in these young ladies over their last semester and a half of high school was incredible. They brought their attendance up to 100% for the remaining days of the school year and even bettered their grade point averages by the time graduation rolled around. 

I simply provided a space that had a bed. They didn’t have any other furniture in their room… just a bed. But the second semester of their senior year compared to their first was night and day.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace could have been a saving grace for these ladies, and I know deep down in my heart that these five gentlemen are on the verge of completely changing the lives of hundreds of local youth. 

As Robert said, something as simple as having your very own bed and getting a good nights rest can be enough to change the trajectory of one’s life. I am so excited to watch this organization change lives in Webster County and I hope you will consider being a part of that change.

Shelby can be followed on Facebook @NewsByShelby.

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