LEHI — Dozens of builders of all ages donned goggles and dust masks Saturday to make bunks for local kids without beds to call their own.
During the Bunks Across America event, held by nonprofit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, volunteers intended to build 2,500 bunk beds. At the Lowe's parking lot in Lehi, volunteers started constructing 25 of those bunk beds while the morning sun beat down.
For the Andrew family, it's all in a day's work.
"We've built a lot of beds and delivered a lot of beds, and the need really is there. It really is more than a bed to these kids, it's more than a place to sleep. It's a sense of security, it's a place that is their very own. Someone cared about them enough to build this bed and bring it to them. So it really is bigger than just a place to sleep," Amy Andrew said.
A family friend in Idaho began Sleep in Heavenly Peace when he heard someone needed a bed and he just so happened to have extra lumber lying around, Andrew said. The friend then kept hearing about other kids who needed beds and it grew into the charity.
"And it was just incredible to watch him and the difference that it really was making," Andrew said.
The charity quickly grew into 140 chapters across the country, with 25 more in the process of starting.
Early on, the Andrew family helped start the group in Lehi in 2017.
The family gets asked a lot if the need for beds in Utah is that great.
The Lehi group's goal for its first year was to donate 50 beds, but members built and delivered 170. In 2018, they built 450 beds. And after Saturday, they'll have built 150 beds so far this year.
"I think people can find help, like they give free and reduced lunch for kids at school. You can find help with food, you can find help with housing, like lots of other places. But really, beds, that's a very underserved thing. I think it's a really underreported need too. A lot of people think, 'We have a roof over our head, we're feeding our kids. It's OK that we're sleeping on the floor, we're all together, it's OK,'" Amy Andrew said. "We're really trying to help lift that burden a little bit and help their lives on that other end."
As the morning progressed, bed frames awaiting assembly stacked up on a tarp, stain darkening in the sun. Wood dust and the buzz of drills and saws permeated the air.
Even the kids worked, fixated on the tasks at hand.
It's like Christmas morning for some of these kids. I've never seen kids excited for their own pillow, for their own sheet set. I mean, they come in and they roll up in the blankets.
Kellen McKeehin, 13, there with his sister and parents, said he hadn't done anything like Saturday's project. But he was having fun building head boards with his family.
If he didn't have his own bed, he said, "It wouldn't be fun."
"Even people who have never touched a drill can come through, or some guy who's been a craftsman for 50 years. Everybody has something they can do and participate. It's one quick assembly line," Brad Andrew said.
Those at the first station worked on staining the lumber. It was later set in the sun to turn darker. Kids were able to sand the wood and move it from one station to another. Others worked at the "quality control station" making sure the wood was smooth. Some kids helped get hardware ready.
"Our little girl, she's 7 years old. And when she comes, her job is to put washers on lag bolts. And she sits in front of a bucket and that's what she does. She knows it's her job," according to Brad Andrew.
Some volunteers were with church groups. "It seemed like the perfect opportunity to come put everybody to work for a good cause," Brenan Klain, who was there leading a youth group, explained. "People are learning how to use power tools and stuff, so it's going really well."
"Anytime you can provide a bed for kid, I mean, it can't be a bad thing, right? There's a lot of opportunities to serve, but when you can serve kids, it seems a little more fulfilling," Chet Holyoak added.
While the volunteers Saturday didn't get to see the finished bunk beds, as the parts were placed in trucks for easier storage and transfer, the Andrews family said delivering the beds to those who need them is "incredible."
"It's like Christmas morning for some of these kids. I've never seen kids excited for their own pillow, for their own sheet set. I mean, they come in and they roll up in the blankets," Brad Andrew said.
"It's been incredible to me to see the good in the world, both on the giving end and the receiving end. All the time, we deliver a bed to a family and they ask when they can come help build beds," Amy Andrew said. "We get notes from moms all the time, 'They went to bed at 4 o'clock after you brought the bed.'"
"Because they wanted to be in their beds," Brad Andrew added.
They deliver the bunk beds with mattresses, pillows, sheets and blankets to kids in northern Utah. All supplies are bought with donated money. Once the group raises enough money to hold an event, they partner with companies like Lowes to buy the materials.
The group would like to eventually buy a building where they can run the charity year-round. Now they run the Lehi chapter out of a storage unit.
For more information about how to volunteer or donate to Sleep in Heavenly Peace, visit the nonprofit's website.