Parents have plenty to do when getting kids ready for bed: checking for monsters, counting sheep, reading (and rereading) a favorite story.
But not every family can provide that kind of comforting routine. For homeless children in shelters, bedtime can be fraught with uncertainty. That’s why five years ago, Kendra Stitt Robins founded the nonprofit Project Night Night. Robins was inspired by her own son Cole, then 2 years old: “Without a full night’s sleep, Cole would be irritable and less responsive the next day,” Robins recalls.
Cole’s restless nights made Robins think of the bedtime routines of children who are less fortunate. She decided to turn her attention to homeless kids: “These children deserve a chance to feel safe and secure while enduring the tumultuous living conditions they face,” Robins says.
Her organization, which operates from offices in San Francisco and in Twinsburg, Ohio, provides homeless children with “Night Night Packages.” Each package includes a tote bag with a security blanket, an age-appropriate book, and a stuffed animal. These simple comforts—a cozy blanket and stuffed friend to cuddle, and the educational stimulation of a book—are invaluable to homeless children. What’s more, “In many cases, these will be the first books a homeless child can call their own,” says deputy director Jessica Silverman Bryan. The organization has reached a lot of kids since its inception: over 100,000 across the country.
So how can you help? Project Night Night welcomes donations of books and stuffed animals (check projectnightnight.org for drop-off locations and more information). You can also participate in the Adopt a Night Night Package Program, through which you can create Night Night Packages to distribute to a homeless shelter in your community (tote bags can be purchased from Project Night Night’s website in exchange for a $3.50 donation). If your local shelter requests more packages at any time after yours have been delivered, Project Night Night will provide it with free replenishment packages.
Robins and Bryan enjoy seeing the effect they have on homeless families and getting feedback from shelters. “There is nothing more satisfying to me than receiving a phone call from a shelter requesting replenishment Night Night Packages,” Bryan says. “This is the ultimate encouragement to continue pushing forward and provide a little relief to the tiniest victims of homelessness.”