MONROE - The Now I Lay Me Down ministry program at First Presbyterian Church is making sure that dozens of area children get a good night's sleep and may be sparing some infants from tragic deaths.
Volunteers at the church have been matching needy families with beds and cribs. The program recently received a donation of dormitory beds from Mercy College in Toledo.
The program got under way in 2001 when children attending the community meal program at the church said that they had to no place to sleep other than a floor or couch.
Church elder Kim Hooper said that alerted the church to a necessity that is often taken for granted.
"When we go into the homes, we are finding these children are sleeping on floors, and it could be anything from cement that is not finished to a rug because their mom and dad can only afford rent on an apartment," he said.
The program, which is designed to help children up to age 18, has provided more than 740 beds and cribs to area children. The program began with beds for children but expanded in 2006 to include cribs for infants.
Unsafe bedding practices, especially babies sleeping in adult beds or on couches where loose blankets or pillows can suffocate them, worry health experts, but parents sometimes can't afford cribs.
Mr. Hooper said the crib-and-bed program relies on the gen-erosity of the church members, businesses, organizations, and others to donate items, as well as their time and labor to get the donations into homes.
In addition to bed frames and new or slightly used box springs and mattresses, youngsters and babies get new pillows, linens, blankets, and, if available, a handmade quilt and a stuffed animal.
Volunteers have discovered that children often sleep in less-than-ideal conditions, Mr. Hooper said.
Instead of cribs or bassinets, babies were sleeping in car safety seats or high chairs, couches and recliners, and adult beds.
For older children, the situation can be just as bad.
"The point that I always bring up to the congregation is that if you sleep on a cold kitchen floor, how productive will you be at work when you get up in the morning?
"The same holds true for kids at school," Mr. Hooper explained.
To be eligible for the program, the church asks families to provide a reference from a caseworker or organization, such as the Salvation Army or homeless shelter, which verifies the need for beds.
Most of the 23 twin beds from Mercy College will be used as bunk beds.
James Harter, the college's vice president of administration services, said the beds were bought for a planned expansion of the campus residence halls but became surplus in 2003 after students began living in off-campus apartment buildings.
A staff member suggested that the church program might be a good place after college officials decided to donate the beds, Mr. Harter said.
"I cannot think of a better cause than this," he said.
Beds, cribs, and other items can be donated to the program by calling the church at 734-242-1545.
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