Orrville community continues building beds for kids in need

Orrville community continues building beds for kids in need
Rhonda Edgerton

Orrville High School junior and Christ United Church of Christ youth mission member Jayne Wallace has participated in both phases of the bed-building projects. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have something as simple as a bed,” she said.


After a successful high school-based project, the Orrville community hasn’t stopped building beds for children in need.

In February Orrville High School’s conservation of parks class built 26 beds for kids in the community who didn’t have a comfortable bed — or any bed — to sleep in.

The project was a success, garnering attention from newspapers and television news stations around the state.

Jim Duxbury, the Orrville High School earth sciences teacher who headed up the project, saw such a need and response in the community that he organized a second phase of the project, which just finished building 15 more beds.

“We realized we could continue the project, not in the school, but in the community at large since we had such an overwhelmingly positive response,” Duxbury said.

After all, the school-based project had been an unusual one for the earth science club, which usually takes on more conservation-type projects like cleaning out streams and releasing fish.

“Doing the project at school had kind of been a result of COVID-19,” Duxbury said. “We couldn’t take our usual hiking trip, so we researched what we could do locally to make a difference.”

What the students found was a need in the community for beds for children.

Their research indicated, according to a Harvard study, children age 3-7 who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with attention, emotional control, peer relationships in mid-childhood and school in general.

Duxbury had seen a television special a few years ago where an organization called Sleep in Heavenly Peace made beds for a community, and his students researched how to do a project like that in Orrville.

In what Duxbury now refers to as phase one of the project, it was one with lots of moving parts involving the school and several
community partners.

“First off, we were awarded a $1,000 grant from the Greater Massillon Health Foundation for the project, and then the Orrville High School Alumni donated $2,000. The Orrville community pitched in about another $2,000,” Duxbury said. “When it came to our project, it seemed like it became one that everyone wanted to get involved with.”

For phase one Jarrett Logistics had made warehouse space available for the project, 11 AM Industries in Norton made mattresses available at cost, Home Depot provided lumber at $300 off its usual cost, and the high school sewing class and community organizations like the Salvation Army and People to People Ministries provided bedding.

The Orrville Salvation Army identified families in need of the service and helped with the coordination of the bed deliveries.

“We couldn’t have done it without the Salvation Army,” Duxbury said. “They are just great at helping people while using discretion and guarding the recipients’ privacy.”

Bethany Fuller of the Salvation Army said she knew Duxbury’s original plan was to try to join the national Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization, but that would have required a lengthy training and certification process they simply couldn’t afford.

“When we decided we could just try to do it on our own, I don’t think Jim ever thought it would get as big as it did,” Fuller said.

The Salvation Army evaluated the existing need for beds from all of its service areas, which include Orrville, Dalton, Kidron, North Lawrence and Marshallville.

“Of course there were all kinds of situations. Some of them would be where something like maybe a divorce had happened in the family and they didn’t have a bed set up for both households and the kids were sleeping on couches or being forced to share beds on their visitations,” Fuller said. “Sometimes it would even be just a mattress on the floor.”

Fuller said she feels the Salvation Army is well-situated to be a hub for the project as it already has key relationships with the schools, social services and community organizations like the United Way.

“Every organization has its key strengths, and we can all come together and have a well-thought-out plan,” Fuller said. “Collaboration and partnerships are essential in our community, and we’re all happy to meet people where the needs are.”

While phase one of the project went well, Duxbury said, “I’m not easily overwhelmed, but I’m still reeling.”

It became apparent the project needed to move into a phase two that would be more community-centered.

“I approached Orrville Christ United Church of Christ’s youth minister, Lisa Yeagley, and she agreed it would be a good mission project,” Duxbury said.

In phase two church youth and other church members joined with some high school students who had participated in phase one and volunteered to build the beds.

Jayne Wallace, an Orrville High School junior who is both in Duxbury’s science club and a member of the church, said she was very excited to be able to help again.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have something as simple as a bed,” Wallace said. “We take so much for granted, and I love being able to give back by helping families and children.”

So the effort is continuing to evolve as an ongoing community project, and Duxbury said while he’ll continue to be supportive, he is optimistic others will step forward to take it to the next level. “We have such a great community. I know we’ll be able to grow this,” he said.

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