Posted by Tom Broad, The Tribune

Gary Akin displays a miniature copy of the bunk beds he and his volunteers build for local kids without beds. With him are Kathryn Lemman (left), Lake Houston Rotary president and senior vice president of Community Bank of Texas, and Pam McNair, vice president of The Mint National Bank, who has built beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace and introduced Akin. Photo by Tom Broad, The Tribune
‘No kid should sleep on the floor’
Gary and Nikki Akin build beds for kids.
“I will never forget the smile of the 13-year-old when we delivered his bed. He had never had a bed of his own. It is very heartwarming and particularly rewarding when you see that smile,” said Gary Akin.
Gary and Nikki Akin are co-presidents of the Houston Northwest chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a national not-for-profit that builds beds for kids who don’t have them.
Akin owns MRI Network. He recruits engineers for the food equipment industry, but he was inspired in 2018 when he saw a video about Sleep in Heavenly Peace on YouTube and decided that the Houston area needed its own chapter.
“I know it is hard to believe, but 3 percent of our total American population, almost 10 million kids, are sleeping on the floor because they don’t have a bed. That is a tragedy,” Akin told the Rotary Club of the Lake Houston area at the Lake Houston YMCA Aug. 11.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace got its start in 2012 in a Kimberly, Idaho garage when Luke Mickelson was shocked to learn that a youngster was sleeping on the floor. He built a bed for the family, had material left over, and built a bed for another family.
“What Luke did got onto Facebook and, as they say, the rest is history,” said Akin. “That simple, charitable act spawned a program that has grown into 242 chapters throughout the United States as well as Canada and Bermuda. Their 95,000 volunteers have built and distributed more than 60,000 beds.”
Akin has the bed making down to a science. He assured the Rotarians that “You don’t have to know how to make a bed. You don’t even have to be handy or know anything about woodwork. We follow the SHP simple, easy-to-follow bunk bed design.”
The bunk beds are built from scratch and built to last a lifetime, according to Akin. The Houston Northwest chapter, like SHP chapters throughout the United States, schedule a “Build Day,” always publicized on their Facebook page.
The typical “Build Day” is three hours long during which volunteers for the day meet at a building in northwest Houston housing the various bunk-making stations.
“Thirty volunteers can usually make 40 beds,” Akin said.
The stations inside the building are all set up and ready for the volunteers. Akin supplies gloves, personal protection equipment and tools. No experience is necessary. Inexperienced volunteers are trained and supervised by the experienced ones.
“I can verify that,” Rotarian Pam McNair, vice president of deposit development for The Mint National Bank, said in introducing Akin. “I built beds for another Rotary Club, and without any experience. They teach you everything you need to know. I fell in love with the program because I did it. I built beds.”
Businesses contribute cash or materials, and their employees, according to Akin. Lowe’s has donated more than $12,000. David Weekly Homes’ provided building materials and their own employees then built 142 beds. Weekly bought mattresses and bedding for the new beds. Mac Haik employees have built more than 140 beds over the last couple of years.
Since 2018, Akin and his volunteers have donated 10,000 hours during which they built 1,694 beds and delivered 1,591, mostly to an area stretching from Interstate 610 to the county line.
“We rely on donations to purchase the materials to make the beds,” said Akin. “A couple years ago, it cost us $300. Now we spend $500 on materials and bedding for each bed.” SHP accepts cash, gift cards and bedding.
Requesting a bed or referring a family that needs a bed takes just a couple of simple steps,, or 844-432-2337.
Lake Houston residents can earn the gratitude of a youngster without a bed, by making a financial donation or simply purchasing twin bed sheets, or by gathering the family or fellow employees and registering to volunteer a few hours to help build beds,
“This is so rewarding. A wonderful way to learn valuable trade skills, network and build relationships,” said Aken, “but our most important goal is that no kid will sleep on the floor in our town.”
The Rotary Club of Lake Houston Area meets Wednesdays, 11:45 a.m., at the Lake Houston YMCA. The Summer Creek Satellite Club meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays at the second floor board room of Generation Park at 8:30 a.m. To learn more about the advantages of being a Rotarian,
NOTE: This story and photo by Tom Broad at The Tribune has been reprinted with permission. You may read the original post on The Tribune's website here: