Two young children with a spark of excitement in their eyes, perched proudly on top of their brand-new beds: that’s an image Alain Houle won’t soon forget.

The children are two of more than 2,000 Canadian kids between age three and 17 who have received a bed from the non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) since the organization opened its first Canadian chapter in 2019. SHP Canada operates under the umbrella of SHP USA, following its model of using volunteers to build and deliver beds to the estimated 2% of kids sleeping on the floor in their own communities.

Houle, an estimating manager with PCL Construction, has been a liaison between PCL and the non-profit since 2022 and has organized groups of PCL employees to volunteer to build beds for kids in need. However, he hadn’t experienced the joy of going out on a delivery himself until recently.

“The smiles on their faces were just so touching,” he says. “These kids are coming from some already difficult situations. Growing up and going to school can be challenging enough. What chance do they have in life if they are going to school tired because they didn’t sleep well?”

It’s a reality that SHP Executive Director Mark Parr is working tirelessly to resolve.

“Our mission is that no child in our community sleeps on the floor,” Parr says.

SHP has a current waitlist of 900 kids in need of beds across Canada. The organization also works closely with referral organizations, such as settlement agencies, women’s shelters, schools and social service agencies, to identify kids in need.

“Providing beds for children gives families dignity and respect. These new beds mark a fresh start for many of our clients,” Parr says.

Since 2022, PCL has partnered with the organization to provide volunteers, tools and material supply. The PCL team also conducts regular consultation meetings with the non-profit to identify ways to help.

“SHP provides its build teams with metal templates so the beds go together consistently and accurately,” Houle says. “SHP had been welding these together on weekends in their garage. It was a pain for them to keep up with these. We were able to manufacture these templates in our fabrication shop.”

PCL has already supplied 40 templates to the non-profit with another 40 to be delivered soon. It’s a small lift for PCL that has a big impact for SHP. The templates can now be deployed to new chapters across Canada, helping more volunteers manufacture more beds and ultimately help more children.

PCL employees have participated in four separate bed-build events, crafting a total of 80 beds.

“There are volunteers who come out and won't take a coffee break because they are into sanding that piece of wood and they are not stopping,” Houle says.

Gail Boire, a payroll manager with PCL, volunteered her time at a bed build in the summer of 2023, sharing that she had an incredible experience.

“Children should have a safe, comfortable place where they can end their nights and start their mornings,” Boire says.

“I wasn’t sure I was qualified to build a bed,” she continues. “There was some hesitation at first, but the thought of bringing a smile to a child’s face outweighed the fear. It was very well organized and the instructions were clear. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and good for the soul. We all worked as if we were a team that had been building beds together for years. I highly recommend volunteering for SHP.”

Houle says that each volunteer puts their own personal touch on the beds.

“Because they’re all handmade, each bed is unique. When we drop them off sometimes the bed is the only thing in the room. Once we’re done, we’ve given that child something that is their own,” says Houle. At the core of PCL is a tradition of sharing and giving back, and this tradition aligns with the work SHP is doing in the community.

“It’s not only the material supply, or the consultation process — it’s also physically being here to build these beds,” says Parr. “We’re volunteer driven, and we’re so thankful for our core volunteers who help support us. We could not deliver beds to kids without their commitment.”

It's Parr’s hope that others catch his same passion for giving back to the community in the years to come.

“My vision is to grow chapters. As a chapter president for Strathcona County, Alberta, we supply beds to the entire greater Edmonton area. With a waitlist 200 kids long it’s not enough,” Parr says. “If you have a passion for leading volunteers, for making a difference in kids’ lives and lifting up your community, please reach out.”

It’s a cause that PCL will continue to support in the years to come.

“For us it’s all about taking an opportunity to leverage our resources and building expertise to give back to the communities we do business in. I can’t think of a better way to do that than by helping SHP grow and build more beds,” Houle says. 

Those interested can donate and find out more about volunteer opportunities in their community through the SHP website. Requests for beds can be made through the organization's website and Facebook page.