Two Problems, One Solution 2

How Sleepyhead Beds Helps 
the Environment and Gives Kids 
a Bed of Their Own

One in 42. Some statistics show that’s how many kids will sleep somewhere other than their own bed tonight in the Kansas City metro area.

Every year, approximately 20 million mattresses and box springs—nearly 50,000 every day — are dumped in American landfills. Each takes up about 23 cubic square feet and, because most mattresses and box springs are built from a combination of organic and non-organic materials, the environmental impact is complicated at best. The organic materials like cotton and wood might decompose eventually but the synthetic materials may never break down, and the chemicals in each mattress and box spring add another layer of concern: bleaches, dyes, fungicides, flame retardants, and petrochemicals leach into the ground.

Enter Sleepyhead Beds, a non-profit, charitable organization founded in 2010 by Monica Starr. Starr worked with foster youth families and saw first-hand the need for beds among area children and started Sleepyhead Beds with two part-time employees, a truck, and a small warehouse space. In its first year, Sleepyhead Beds provided 1,200 beds to area children.

Now Executive Director Sam Cook leads a team that includes 10 volunteer board members. In 2015, more than 2,000 children and parents received a bed and more than 150 tons of waste was diverted from landfills.

“The issues we focus on—kids who are sleeping on the floor or a couch and the unnecessary waste in landfills—are issues that will continue to grow,” says Cook. “The environmental impact is significant and detrimental, and there’s no reason for that to happen. The solution is easy.”

That solution is to pick up gently used beds from around the metro—for a nominal fee—then sanitize and clean them at Sleepyhead Bed’s new, larger warehouse before giving them to families on the organization’s waiting list. The process usually takes less than a month and scheduling can be done online.

Donations come from individuals and from groups such as universities and hotels. Cook says the organization has grown rapidly in the past three years and is focused on continued growth.

“We say yes, then figure out the logistics,” says Cook. Volunteers fuel the organization.

“We have companies, youth groups and individuals who volunteer,” says Cook. “And that continues to be our biggest need—people who will give their time so that kids can sleep in their own bed. We had an 8th grade class from a Catholic school volunteer, and they were able to help 93 kids get a bed.”

Sleepyhead Beds doesn’t require an application. Instead, it runs on referral, both self-referral and help from social workers and teachers. There are currently 1,825 families on the organization’s wait list; 1,500 of those are self-referrals, and 4,000 are kids.

To date, the organization has delivered more than 4,000 beds to area children—that’s the equivalent of three football fields worth of beds that have been saved from landfills. Each bed is cleaned with SteriFab, a biodegradable sanitizer that is effective against fungus, mold, mildew, bed bugs, dust mites, fleas, ticks, likes, and other pests. The beds are also cleaned with a UV vacuum, and then certified as Kid-Worthy.

Sleepyhead Beds also needs and accepts gently used bedding—sheets and blankets—and new pillows, and is in particular need of Pack and Plays.

“Pack and Plays are a really good sleep solution for babies,” says Cook. “We could help so many more families if we had more of those to offer.”

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