The importance of sleep is indisputable—especially as it relates to the developing minds and bodies of children and teens. That’s the reason that Mahoning Valley Baptist Association (MVBA), Youngstown, Ohio, partnered with the Campbell, Ohio-headquartered Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries to provide mattresses to families in the low-income Youngstown metropolitan area. Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries is a partner of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Community Outreach Ministries.

The organizations had learned from a Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority survey that only 40 percent of apartments in the Kirwan Homes development, Campbell, had enough beds for the number of occupants.

“Children are sleeping on couches, chairs and, in some cases, extra clothing piles on the floor,” wrote Dr. Rudy Braydich, MVBA president, in a report to ABHMS. “Proper sleep translates into better attention in school and reduced health issues.”

MVBA churches raised money to purchase mattresses. Clients from Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries’ three community centers—Kirwan Homes Community Center; Rockford Village Community Center, Youngstown; and Youngstown West Side Community Center—were invited to apply to receive mattresses. Volunteers from MVBA churches delivered 104 mattresses to residents’ doors.

When word spread that mattresses were being delivered, the waiting list for mattresses grew. “We received so many phone calls from people who said, ‘I need a mattress, too.’” says Mark Samuel, CEO of Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries.

Youngstown area poverty is so widespread, Samuel adds, that every student in grades kindergarten through 12 in the city receives a subsidized lunch.

ABHMS, on behalf of American Baptist Churches USA, has responded by awarding a $5,000 One Great Hour of Sharing Feeding and Shelter Grant to MVBA to purchase additional mattresses.