Organization collects unused beds for families in need
by Kara Hansen
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Most Americans take for granted the warm, soft bed they fall into every night after a long, busy day.
But an estimated one in 42 children in Kansas City do not know such a luxury, living without a bed or proper sleep space to call their own. “There are lots of people who literally sleep on their floor every night,” said Monica Starr, director of Sleepyhead Beds. “There was a family we delivered beds to that had lived in their house for a year and a half. Two parents and three little kids crowded onto a sofa every night to sleep.”
A good night’s sleep, however, is critical to both a person’s physical and emotional well-being — especially a child’s. Disturbed sleep equates with increased behavior problems, a higher risk of obesity, an increased risk of physical injuries, and decreased memory and cognitive function
Yet for many families, the cost of a bed is a significant expense and one not easily absorbed by an already strapped budget — not to mention the cost of delivery.
But Starr and several friends are working to change all that. Starr first recognized the need when she was volunteering with Jackson County (Missouri) Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Operation Breakthrough. Several families she was working with did not have beds for their children. One family, in particular, was in desperate need of beds.
Starr called area social service agen- cies and the United Way, but to no avail. There was not a single agency in Kansas City that helped provide children with beds.
That’s when she decided to make a last-ditch attempt and ask people she knew for help.
“I sent out a mass e-mail to friends, asking if anyone had a bed they might be willing to provide for this family,” she said.
“I was really amazed at the response,” she continued. “There were lots of people with beds they wanted to get rid of, but without a truck to move it anywhere.”
With the help of friends, Starr began picking up mattresses, box springs, and bed frames from people who no longer used them. The organization officially became Sleepyhead Beds in September 2010.
“There are truly enough beds out there to fill the needs,” said Starr. “We sterilize and sanitize the beds and get them to the people who need them. The people we pick up the beds from are just as grateful to have an unused bed gone as the people are who are receiving them.”
Starr doesn’t think there’s another program like it in the country.
“For $100, I can deliver eight used beds, which is the same cost of a new, cheap twin bed,” said Starr.
Moreover, there is no formal application process. If a child needs a bed and the organization has one, you can count on the child receiving it.
Frances Douthat, a parishioner at St. Ann in Prairie Village, said the experience of donating to Sleepyhead Beds was considerably different than donating funds to a charitable organization.
“There was more physical participation on my part in going to the basement and pulling out our extra beds. It made more of a connection for me than writing a check and putting it in an envelope,” said Douthat.
“It made me think about how we have extra beds that were going unused, and in some ways, I can’t relate to kids not having any,” she said.
Having someone come to pick up her donation made the process simple, added Douthat.
“It was very easy to donate. I e-mailed Monica about the beds and she told me they were doing pickups at the end of the week, and we could either leave the beds outside by our garage or they could ring the doorbell when they arrived to pick them up,” said Douthat.
“She was true to her word and pickup was done quickly and easily,” she noted. Douthat said she and her husband have been active in social service and charitable work, even mentoring a young man. But even they were unaware of the need for beds by families. “It’s a surprise this is a void that has been overlooked for so long — by myself included. Everyone of us understands the tragedy of sleep deprivation,” said Douthat.
Though the organization delivered 115 beds in November — a significant number — there is currently a waiting list of children who need a place to rest their heads. In December alone, Sleepyhead Beds received an average of nine requests for beds every day. Coupled with a decreased number of donations during the holiday season, the current need far exceeds the number of beds Starr has available.
“When we started out, there were no statistics on how many children went without a bed,” said Starr. “Now we realize the number is much greater than we originally thought.”
Sleepyhead Beds serves the Greater Kansas City area, but reaches as far out as Leavenworth and delivers wherever the beds are needed.
“If someone needs a bed, we try to make a delivery happen,” said Starr.