The Virginia Tech Honors College Stamps Scholars recently took to the top deck of a parking garage to build 24 beds for children in the New River Valley with a national nonprofit organization called Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP).

The project’s genesis was a meeting between Christina McIntyre, the director of professional development, national, and international scholarships at the Virginia Tech Honors College, and Paul Mele, the president of the NRV chapter of the SHP, which is dedicated to building, assembling, and delivering high-quality bunk beds to children and families in need.

The NRV chapter has completed multiple bed builds since becoming active in August of this year. Volunteers have delivered more than 55 beds to children in the NRV but there are many more kids on the waiting list.

“There is need in the New River Valley,” said Mele. “Bedless-ness is a problem in every community across America. We in Sleep in Heavenly Peace believe the average is probably three to four percent of kids between 3 and 17 do not have a traditional device to sleep on.”

One of the families Mele and his team provided beds for had two young girls sharing a piece of egg crate foam with a sheet draped over it for a bed. Thanks to volunteers, the foam was thrown out and the girls were gifted bunk beds fitted with unicorn sheets.

When McIntyre found out about this need, she saw it as a perfect opportunity to bring the Stamps Scholars together. “I really wanted our group to do a project that had meaning,” she said. She hoped the scholars could grow from the experience – and they did.

“I learned about teamwork and patience," said 2020 Stamps Scholar Garret Asper from Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

Natasha Doshi agreed and said she had gained a new perspective. “[I was reminded that] there are people and things in this community that are so much bigger than ourselves,” Doshi explained.

The build day, Nov. 7, was made possible by other contributions from the community. The Lowe's of Christiansburg donated over $2,500 worth of lumber, Heavener Rental loaned the group generators, and the Virginia Tech Foundation provided access to the University Mall Parking Garage.

Stamps Scholars are high-achieving student leaders selected from incoming freshmen by the Virginia Tech Honors College each year to receive a multiyear merit scholarship through the national Strive Foundation to help them achieve their educational aspirations. Service is foundational for the VT Honors College and Stamps Foundation.

For more information on SHP, visit shpbeds.org. The New River chapter of the organization can be found on Facebook @SHPNewRiver or contact Paul Mele at paul.mele@shpbeds.org.

— Written by Rachael Wennermark, a Stamps Scholar student

Stamps Scholar Sengal Ghidewon-Abay
Stamps Scholar Sengal Ghidewon-Abay (senior, electrical engineering) predrills bolt holes for ease of assembly. Photo by Christina McIntyre, director of professional development, national, and international scholarships at the Virginia Tech Honors College.