By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Most of us can recite the lyrics to one of the most popular Christmas hymns of all time. The first stanza of “Silent Night” describes the night Jesus was born in a stable and concludes with the repeated line — “Sleep in heavenly peace.”
Just as Christ was born with no bed to rest his head, thousands of children in Louisville go to bed each night without a bed of their own. One local man hopes to rectify that problem.
Tom Recktenwald started a local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace last summer after he saw a news segment on the national organization.
“I was sitting in my easy chair watching the evening news and a story about Sleep in Heavenly Peace came on. I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do with my time,” he said in an interview at his home last month.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national non-profit organization, is dedicated to building, assembling and delivering bunk and single beds to families in need. The charity’s motto is “no child sleeps on the floor in our town.”
That message resonated with Recktenwald and his wife, Carol, who are both retired educators.
“Kids have been the center of our lives. When you’ve been that involved with kids and you see them not getting the benefits they deserve, it really struck us,” Carol Recktenwald said.
They delivered their first bed last year, the day before Thanksgiving. Since then, they have delivered about 45 more beds. The need far exceeds their current capability, Recktenwald said.
They recently completed an additional 40 beds at the two-day Remodeling Show and DeckExpo event held at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Members of Recktenwald’s Flaget High School Class of 1964 assisted in that two-day build.
The local organization operates solely on donations. And many of those come by word of mouth, Carol Recktenwald said.
The Flaget Alumni Association recently gave the organization a $1,000 donation. The Good Shepherd Ladies Auxiliary gave nearly $1,000. The group also sews kid-themed pillowcases to accompany the beds.
The Recktenwalds have also received donations from the Knights of Columbus of St. Lawrence Church, Give for Good Louisville, Giving Tuesday and many family and friends.
One bed costs $175, which includes the wood frame, bedding, pillow, delivery and setup.
Families in need can visit https://www.shpbeds.org/chapter/ky-louisville-w to request a bed.
The Recktenwalds, who are parishioners of St. Lawrence, operate Sleep in Heavenly Peace out of the basement of their home in southwest Louisville.
Alumni groups, youth groups, Scout troops or other parish groups that wish to volunteer are invited to reach out to Recktenwald. It takes about three hours to build five beds. Youth volunteers should be 12 years or older and accompanied by an adult.
Tom and Carol Recktenwald grew up together at the former Our Lady Church in Portland (now Good Shepherd Church) and have been married 51 years. They have two children and three teenage grandchildren.
They hope to expand their operation by securing a larger facility and are looking for an organization to partner with in that endeavor.
Recktenwald said he’s proud of their commitment to children in the community.
“I got into this to make lives better for kids, but we get way more out of it,” he added.
To learn more about Sleep in Heavenly Peace or to donate to the local chapter, visit https://www.shpbeds.org/chapter/ky-louisville-w.
Visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/SHPLouisvilleW.