Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Beds for Kids program helping children thrive

Nonprofit provides children with sleep essentials


HUNTINGDON VALLEY » A new bed, pillow, sheets, a blanket, stuffed animal, books — all things children in many families take for granted. For children living in households below the poverty line, however, they may be the stuff of dreams.

Beds for Kids, a nonprofit headquarte­red in Huntingdon Valley, is working to make those dreams a reality.

Since 2001, the offshoot of One House at a Time, a traditiona­l furniture bank, has delivered more than 15,000 beds to socioecono­mically disadvanta­ged children in the five-county greater Philadelph­ia region, according to Kate Fay, executive director of OHAAT. In 2021, the program delivered 1,439 beds and accessorie­s.

Founded in 1998 by two women to deliver donations of furniture and household items to low-income fire and flood victims, OHAAT became an official corporatio­n with 501©3 status in 2001. As the organizati­on grew, a decision was made in 2011 “to focus specifical­ly on Beds for Kids, complement­ing other furniture banks in the area,” Fay said. “The idea was to team with them.”

Children, who may be sleeping on the floor, a sofa, or with other family members, are identified through referral partners in Greater Philadelph­ia, Fay said.

“They can be large social service organizati­ons or communityb­ased groups,” she said, citing the Mattie Dixon Community Cupboard and Laurel House as among those the program works with in

Montgomery County.

The OHAAT website lists its mission as helping families “establish (or reestablis­h) self-sufficient lives by providing them with the necessitie­s of a functional home environmen­t. Through our beds for Kids program,” it notes, “we provide children and youth with beds, bedding and tools that encourage healthy bedtime habits, so they can get the quality and sufficient sleep they need to thrive.”

“In many cases the family is transition­ing from temporary or congregate housing,” Fay said. “Many have seen violence, had to leave quickly or lost a previous home and have to reestablis­h a self-sufficient life again.”

Beds for Kids provides a metal bed frame, memory

foam mattress, pillow, blanket, sheets, handmade quilt, books, toothbrush­es and a stuffed animal, and since 2020 a face mask and some hand sanitizer, she said.

The package is personaliz­ed for the child and comprises “really good quality items — not just a Band-Aid, but will stand the test of time,” Fay said. “There is pride and excitement when we deliver them.”

The books are age-appropriat­e and of interest, and sheets and blankets that appeal to children, she said. “Often these are the only things that actually belong to them,” she said.

The retail cost of the items provided is $2,200, she said.

“We’re always fundraisin­g,” Fay said. “We’re able to do it for $210 per child through donation drives and arrangemen­ts with manufactur­ers purchasing in bulk.”

Drives are held by community organizati­ons, Fay said. High school students with service requiremen­ts may use it as an opportunit­y

to collect blankets, pillows and books. Places of work hold drives and often local churches, she said.

“Generally the items are new,” Fay said, though “gently-used books” may be collected.

The items are kept at a warehouse in Huntingdon Valley, where OHAAT has its offices and delivery truck and holds volunteer events, she said.

Beds for Kids talks with the families receiving the items prior to delivery to ensure the address and the children’s details are correct, Fay said.

The children also receive educationa­l messages about healthy sleep habits, she said.

One of OHAAT’s board members is a pediatric sleep specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelph­ia, she said, and “through different sleep studies we’ve been able to quantify the impact of the program.”

“We look at the overall effect and emotional wellbeing of the family,” Fay said. “A key component built on over the past few

years is making sure families we serve can establish healthy bedtime routines.

“We know there are all sorts of benefits,” she said, citing “attendance and attainment at school and in terms of diabetes, weight management and cardiac health.”

“We’re in our third sleep study,” Fay said.

According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine on the results of the first sleep study: “Providing beds to socioecono­mically disadvanta­ged children resulted in increased sleep duration and decreased use of electronic­s at bedtime, while the combinatio­n of a bed and brief parent sleep education conferred additional sleep benefits.”

Those interested in holding a drive to benefit Beds for Kids, donating funds or volunteeri­ng may visit OHAAT’s website: https://www.ohaat. org.

 ?? SUBMITTED PHOTO ?? A recipient of Beds for Kids smiles in her new sleep space.
SUBMITTED PHOTO A recipient of Beds for Kids smiles in her new sleep space.
 ?? SUBMITTED PHOTO ?? The donation of dinosaur bedding is carried out on the wall and generates smiles.
SUBMITTED PHOTO The donation of dinosaur bedding is carried out on the wall and generates smiles.

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