by ROBERT HELLWEG
Anyone who has ever slept on the floor knows the negative effects of a restless, uncomfortable night of sleep: focus is lost, productivity goes down, and emotions run high. These effects are especially harsh on children for whom sleep deprivation can contribute to emotional, health, and developmental problems. Did you know that approximately one in every 42 children in Kansas City struggles with these issues because s/he sleeps nightly on the floor, sofa, or shares a bed with parents or multiple other siblings? It is Sleepyhead Beds’ unique mission to serve this overlooked need.
Through her work as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate), Sleepyhead Beds’ founder Monica Starr regularly encountered children suffering the effects of sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions. In many cases, children in the foster system were unable to be reunited
with their parents because the family lacked the resources to provide those children with their own bed (mattress and box spring). Monica thought by reaching out to her network and securing gently used beds and bedding that she might be able to help get these kids back home.
What started as the simple efforts of one Kansas City woman in 2011 has turned into Kansas City’s only non- profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and their families by providing clean, recycled beds and bedding. Supported by two full-time staff, a board of 14 community members, and a small army of volunteer labor, Sleepyhead Beds was able to distribute over 2,000 beds to kids and their families in 2016. It hopes to do even more in 2017 and beyond.
Sleepyhead Beds’ initial focus was on children in the foster care system. But as word of this work got out, the demand for beds continued to grow. Sleepyhead Beds now responds to the needs of Kansas City area children in a variety of difficult situations. These include homelessness, return from foster care, recovery from abuse and/or drug dependency issues, refugee relocation, and families recovering from other life-altering challenges. Our current waitlist is over 500 families and totals more than 1,000 Kansas City children in need.
In order to stock our warehouse, Sleepyhead Beds accepts new and gently used mattress and box spring donations from anyone within the Kansas City area (for information about its coverage area, please visit sleepyheadbeds.org). Of all household items, mattresses and box springs are possibly the heaviest and take up the most space. They are difficult to transport and store. By offering pick up of these items, Sleepyhead Beds not only helps supply children and their families in need of beds, but it also prevents these items from going into local Kansas City area landfills. A successful by-product of our work is the diversion of more than 150 tons of waste — including non-biodegradable foam, synthetic fibers, and steel coils – per year. Any mattresses accepted by Sleepyhead Beds that are not deemed fit for redistribution are recycled through our SLEEPYHEAD VOLUNTEERS area partner, Avenue of Life.
This provides a secondary, and invaluable, service to those in the Kansas City area.
Our process is fairly simple. Anyone interested in donating a bed can register via our website to schedule a pickup. For a relatively nominal fee (currently $30), Sleepyhead Beds will pick up the beds, take them to our warehouse for sanitization, and then redistribute them out into the community. We currently accept crib, twin, full, and queen sized mattresses and box springs as well as bedding (sheets and blankets). We also accept used pack ’n play-style playpens, which our families utilize for babies and small toddlers who are not yet ready for a “big kid” bed.
Sleepyhead Beds could not provide these services to Kansas City without the generous support of the local community and our partners. It is so grateful to have been supported since its inception by the Soave Automotive Group and since 2013 by the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City. With their help, it has been able to increase the number of beds distributed each and every year since its founding. Sleepyhead Beds’ hope is to eventually be able to ensure that no Kansas City child goes to sleep at night without his or her own safe and clean bed.
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