A group of charitable organizations are banding together across Massachusetts to provide thousands of beds to children in need.
It all started in 2013 when a public school teacher in Western Massachusetts noticed that her students were consistently tired, unfocused, and absent. Many of them came from low-income neighborhoods and, when confronted, admitted that their poor academic performance was rooted in the fact that they had no suitable place to sleep. So, she reached out to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless for help — and she got it.
The Coalition worked with the teacher to launch a new charitable initiative called A Bed for Every Child which aimed to do exactly that — provide every child in need with a bed of their own, starting with her students. The non-profit organization had already been serving the homeless of Massachusetts for years, but A Bed for Every Child was designed specifically for children.
According to Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless executive director Robyn Frost, the initiative saw an immediate outpouring of support from school districts all over the state, particularly in Western Massachusetts. Now, the Coalition works year-round to spread the word about A Bed for Every Child and has since provided nearly 3,000 young folks with new mattresses, bed frames, sheets, pillows, and stuffed animals.
While Western Mass school districts and non-profits have been working in tandem with the Coalition for years, the Pioneer Valley chapter of the Cooperative Credit Union Association recently made headlines for its tremendous fundraising contribution to the project. So, I reached out to Frost to learn more about Pioneer Valley’s role in all of this.
Frost told me that the Pioneer Valley credit unions have been “instrumental” to the Coalition, and have raised almost $20,000 for the cause. “For every $250 A Bed for Every Child raises,” said Frost, “we are able to give a new mattress, bedding, and frame to a child in need. Pioneer Valley has been raising a lot of financial support for children within the communities they serve.”
Frost went on to tell me that these efforts serve to benefit families who are not only struggling with poverty, but also those who lost their belongings in fires, as well as refugees whose homes were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
BUILDING BETTER SLEEP ONE BED AT A TIME
Recipients local to Western Massachusetts have volunteers deliver the bedding donations directly to their homes, while the Coalition relies on community partners and neighboring school districts to distribute the rest. Frost told me that the new beds go to kids ranging in age from 2 to 19 years old, and that prior to receiving their new bedroom goods, most of them sleep on the floor or with family members.
Fortunately, A Bed for Every Child isn’t the only charitable initiative working to bring better Zzz’s to those in need. We’ve seen an uptick in charitable initiatives aimed toward providing underserved communities safe, cozy places to slumber. Non-profits are expanding programs to focus on bedding donations, more bed-in-a-box brands are donating mattresses to charity, and even grad students are working together to bring bedroom furniture to shelters.
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I asked Frost about this increased interest in sleep health, and she told me that people are still learning about how important having a bed of one’s own really is. “We know a bed alone is not going to solve poverty,” she said, “but we’ve also learned that giving a child the tools to get a good night’s sleep and a good education can lift them up out of poverty as an adult.”
Images courtesy of A Bed for Every Child