Bay Area company provides books and blankets for children in need.
November 30, 2010 5:14 PM
Travelling frequently with an eighteen-month-old baby isn't easy--just ask Kendra Stitt Robins, who, in 2005 was doing quite a bit of that with her son, Cole. The recent University of Michigan graduate soon sought a solution to make sure baby Cole would sleep soundly regardless of where they retired for the night.
"It didn't take long for me to realized that Cole slept better if he had two very specific things with him: his Goodnight Moon book and his blanket," said Robins. "I realized that it didn't matter where we were sleeping, as long as he had those objects of comfort, he was home."
Sparked by the epiphany she had with her own son, Kendra, a former English Literature teacher with a background in law, started thinking about the female victims of domestic violence and how these mothers often have to leave, children in tow, with very few possessions at a moments notice.
Robins says that the more and more she thought about the women and children, the more she realized she wanted to do something to help. Inspired by her own experience with her son, Robins figured that if Cole's favorite things helped him get to sleep at night, maybe it would work for other children as well. Thus, Project Night-Night was born.
There's a hint of a smile in Robins' voice as she recalls the early stages of Project Night-Night, which consisted of the founder/executive director sitting on her living room floor and wrapping up donated blankets and stuffed animals with a strand of ribbon and then donating the finished products (Night-Night Packages) to local shelters.
Robbins was blown away by the immediate success and demand for Project Night-Night, and in just a short year she had put together and sent out twelve hundred packages.
Over the years, the organization continued to grow at an average of about five hundred percent. Now, five years into it's inception, Project Night-Night produces anywhere between twenty-five thousand and thirty-five thousand packages a year and locally serves every major family and domestic violence center in the nine Bay Area counties.
Additionally, the non-profit has received national praise and sends its Night-Night Packages to around seven hundred shelters throughout every state in the United States excluding Hawaii and Alaska.
Cynthia Brightwell, a family caseworker for Texas based transitional housing program, The Samaritan Inn says that above anything else their organization benefits from Project Night-Night's generosity because their packages are like little reassurances that everything will eventually be alright for the children who receive them.
Brightwell explains that many of these children have never had anything given to them especially and says that the packages provide a special sort of comfort for the children they work with.
"It's wonderful--we love to see their little faces light up when we give them their bags!" exclaims the caseworker. "If it weren't for all the wonderful donors and children's organizations such as Project Night-Night, it would be a sad and lonely stay here for our children."
Though each Night-Night tote is made to help comfort children and allow them to have a better night's sleep, Robbins also adds that supplying kids with objects of comfort can be beneficial to the parents as well.
"If you have a particularly irritable child that doesn't sleep well through the night then the parents have to concentrate on the child rather than concentrate on a prospective job interview, putting together a resume or doing whatever they have to do to find permanent housing," explains Robins.
Having served well over one hundred thousand children to date, Project Night-Night still relies heavily on volunteers as well as donations. Instilling the Adopt A Night-Night Package Program, a system that allows anyone to purchase the non-profit's Night-Night totes in increments of ten for $3.50 a bag, has allowed the organization to grow effortlessly and without limitations.
By allowing people who wish to volunteer or donate to order totes to fill at home with a used book, a like-new stuffed animal and a new blanket, has been pivotal in Project Night-Night's continuing growth.
"The process we've come up with kind of cuts out the middle man--we don't have to hire anyone to go out and raise money--doing it this way means our donors come to us." Says Robins.
After the donors fill the totes with the materials, they work with the organization to find a shelter near them to give the completed packages to.
Most shelters have been very open to receiving donations from Robins' organization, something the founder attributes to Project Night-Night's commitment to filling the needs of every shelter they donate to on an ongoing basis.
Despite all the success and popularity her organization has received, Robins stands by the fact that the most gratifying part of running it all is knowing she's been able to supply children that may be going through a tough time with a little bit of comfort in their lives.
Robins says that as a mother of two young kids, she knows all too well that the first thing they want when they wake up in the morning is the same as the last thing they want before they go to sleep: their favorite book, stuffed animal, and blanket.
"When you break it down, they're all objects that most of us take for granted because we have so many lying around in our house," says Robbins. "Sometimes we forget that it's the simple things that bring us the most comfort. I'm just glad I'm able to do my part in helping other kids out there experience that joy and comfort, too."
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