Across City Connects schools, community partnerships have a profound impact on children lives. One example is flourishing in Springfield, Mass.
Last year, as we’ve blogged, after a local family’s home caught on fire, Stephanie Sanabria — the City Connects coordinator at Springfield’s Early Childhood Education Center — worked with a team of community partners to secure a bed for the family’s daughter. A few months later, more beds were delivered to Springfield for more children. Behind the deliveries is an initiative called A Bed for Every Child run by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. The Pioneer Valley Chapter of credit unions helped out with fundraising.
As Julie Donovan, City Connects Program Manager in Springfield, explains, “this initiative is critical for our families. Our students need a good bed to lay in every night, so that they can get the proper sleep — the proper rest to achieve their full potential — and come to school ready to learn.”
Because of local tragedies as well as hurricanes that hit Florida and Puerto Rico, the need for beds has grown. As Sanabria, who has been nicknamed the Bed Lady, recently told us, referrals for families often come through word of mouth, especially now that many Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees are receiving housing.
“Over the winter,” Sanabria says, “I began accumulating a list of families faster than I was able to coordinate delivery for their beds!”
Nonetheless, from June 2017 to June 2018, the Coalition for the Homeless has delivered beds to about 90 Springfield area children, and the MassMutual Federal Credit Union has helped place five beds in local homes. And this year, in addition to mattresses and box springs, families also received sheets, a book, and a teddy bear.
Television station WWLP covers the initiative here. And here are some of the stories Sanabria shared:
A school nurse from the Washington Street School contacted the coordinator at Springfield’s Early Childhood Education Center because she needed three beds for a family. The mother was battling a serious illness and the father was working to support three young children, two boys and a girl. The family’s home was in poor physical condition, and they needed to dispose of their current mattresses. Thankfully, the coordinator supplied three beds that the father was able to pick up and bring home.
“Thank you so much for everything,” the dad said. “You have no idea how much this means to me, my wife and children.”
One grandmother, who had left Puerto Rico because Hurricane Maria had destroyed her home, received three beds for her grandchildren.
Her response: “Muchísimas gracias por este apoyo tan bonito. Ahora mis nietos tienen una cama cómoda donde pueden sonar. Les agradezco mucho!” Or in English: Thank you very much for this wonderful help. Now my grandchildren have a comfortable bed where they can dream. I appreciate it!
A 5-year-old boy who left the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in Florida moved to Springfield with his parents and two sisters. At first, they lived doubled up with relatives. But once the family had a new apartment, Sanabria secured a bed for the boy and also bedding, stuffed animals, books, and winter supplies. Whenever the boy saw Sanabria at school, he would flash a big smile. He referred to her as “the lady who got him a new bed, winter coat and gloves.”
These stories show how strong partnerships make a real difference and why student support should go beyond academic support. As Sanabria puts it:
“Thank you again Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, and thanks to all of the amazing business partners who help make this life-giving A Bed for Every Child initiative possible. You truly are making an impact within the greater Springfield community! I look forward to continuing our work together and partnership in the future.”