Local Couple Launches Windsor Chapter
Story by Michael Seguin
“No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.” That’s the motto of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, an international organization that maintains that all children deserve a safe, comfortable space to lay their heads. The various chapters of the organization are composed of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling and delivering beds to all families in need.
And now, thanks to new arrivals Brian and Terry Cyncora, a chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace is coming to Windsor and Essex County.
One glance at the Cyncoras reveals how much the wellbeing of their community means to the two of them.
Brian spent 30 years in the Winnipeg Police Service before moving on to serve as the Executive Director of the Manitoba Police Commission and the Commissioner of the Manitoba Securities Commission. In addition, he also spent 10 years working as the President of the Main Street Project, a community health agency addressing issues surrounding mental health, addiction and poverty.
“My life has been centered around serving,” Brian explains. “You develop this passion for serving. It’s all about standing in the trenches and meeting all the good people that are out there. It’s not about handouts. It’s about hand-ups. There’s so many good people in these marginalized, disenfranchised groups. Some of them just don’t have a chance and are victims of circumstance. Sometimes all it takes is that little push, that little moment of connection, to make a difference in someone’s life.”
After retiring in 2015, Brian and Terry moved to Windsor, where they continued their charitable efforts. Brian served for several terms as a Committee Member of the City of Windsor’s Seniors Advisory Committee and as the Governance Chair Director at Beach Grove Golf & Country Club.
And now, Brian and Terry set about establishing a local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
The two were first introduced to the organization this August, when they returned to Winnipeg to visit Brian’s dying father.
“A couple old colleagues had established a local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace,” Brian recalls. “After talking with them, we realized that there was a real need here in Windsor. It was an untapped need, that no one was attending to. And because of our backgrounds in serving, it seemed to be a natural fit.”
According to data obtained from Sleep in Heavenly Peace, 2-3% of all children in any community sleep on the floor.
“We have 95,000 children in Windsor and Essex County,” Brian explains. “If you take 2% of that, that’s 1,900 kids without a bed. If our chapter were to build 100 beds a year—which is likely what we’re going to aim for this year—that’s 19 years of service. There’s a real need that we believe we can continuously support.”
Brian and Terry registered their charity on August 16th. However, a local tragedy forced them to redouble their efforts.
“On September 6th, our community lost Carmen and Adam Allen,” Brian states. “They left behind six children. Five girls and one boy. I got an email from Bishop Paul Riley from New Life Fellowship Church through my leadership network, putting out a call to help support these kids. One of the asks in that letter was for beds for each of the children. Then, Terry and I looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing!’”
At the time, the local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace was still in its infancy. Thinking quickly, Brian contacted his friends in Winnipeg and the chapter in Detroit for information on how to proceed.
“After a few other calls and connections, I was able to recruit a friend of mine who owns a trucking company to cross over into Detroit while doing his essential service work,” Brian explains. “While there, he was able to pick up six beds, six mattresses, six sets of bedding and import them to us.”
Within weeks, before the charity even had a chance to fully launch, Brian and Terry had six beds in hand, ready for the Allen children. They are currently holding the beds in storage until the end of the month, when the kids move into the house that their grandfather has restored for them.
Now, the Cyncoras are still trying to gather the funding and materials required to fully take down the scaffolding on their own internal infrastructure.
“Everything really got fast-tracked because of what we did for the Allen family,” Terry states. “So, moving forward, our whole concept is that people who need beds would apply through the website. We would need volunteers and donations to really get started.”
One of their biggest necessities for launching their charity is a storage area to house all the building materials.
“We need a place to do this,” Terry confirms. “We need a place to store everything. Once we get things into place that way, we can host our first Build Day. There, builders can come down and make the beds and then deliver them to people in need.”
The Cyncoras are hoping to get as many community members involved in the process as possible. One of their future projects is hosting a corporate Build Day, where staff can build beds for vulnerable children as a form of teambuilding.
“It’s all very powerful,” Terry states. “Building beds for kids, delivering them and seeing the kind of difference you can make. The reality is, a lot of these children are sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions. Being able to have your own bed is a huge deal!”
“The basics in life are food, shelter and clothing,” Brian contends. “Beds are an integral part of shelter. We feel that we’re providing a real service to our community’s most vulnerable people. These children are victims and children are always innocent. We’re providing a service to them and those community members who want to volunteer and help these kids.”
More information about the Windsor chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace is available on their Facebook page on @SHPWindsor and the website shpbeds.ca . There, visitors have the option to request beds and donate.
“You can make a difference by giving that little extra effort,” Brian states. “You can always make a difference by serving.”