When you lay your head on your pillow tonight you may not think too much about your bed, but Tom Recktenwald does. He thinks about all the children in our city who don’t have a bed to sleep in each night. As president of the Louisville West Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Tom and his team of volunteers build and deliver beds to needy children in our area.
This Louisville native, born at St. Joseph’s Hospital on December 15, 1946, and proud Flaget High School and Jefferson Community College graduate, has called the city home his entire life. After retiring from Naval Ordnance in 1994, Tom became technical coordinator and computer teacher at Notre Dame Academy until his retirement in 2013.
For three years he volunteered with Hand in Hand Ministries where he helped build homes in Appalachia and developed a children’s computer literacy camp at their Auxier, Kentucky site. Tom made sure that every child who attended his camp received a computer to take home.
Tom said he was searching for a volunteer opportunity that would allow him to set his own work schedule and remain near home. That’s when he saw a piece on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt featuring Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
“I saw the feature and thought, I can do that. I can make a bed,” he said. He traveled to the organization’s headquarters in Twin Falls, Idaho, for vetting and training. Tom started the Louisville West Chapter in September 2018 and as of March 28, 2022, the organization has built and delivered 459 beds to children in Louisville. Tom is responsible for the entire operation of the chapter, including fundraising, ordering materials, recruiting volunteers, overseeing the bed building process, and scheduling deliveries.
What are your plans for the Chapter?
I’ll continue doing what we do as long as I’m able, and then try to find a willing successor who can build on what we’ve started here and continue to provide beds for the children.
What have you learned about yourself through volunteering?
I’ve learned that you’re never too old to volunteer as long as you’re physically and mentally able. Volunteering allows me to meet and work with a great group of volunteers on a regular basis and stay both physically and mentally active. It’s rewarding to know you’re making a difference. Especially with the next generation.
What advice would you give older seniors interested in volunteering?
My advice for older seniors would be to get involved in volunteering in some endeavor that you enjoy doing. Find something you like and then find an organization that does it.
By Kym Voorhees Raque | Photos by Patti Hartog