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Willmar Slumberland continues Home for the Holidays tradition of donating beds to those in need

Submitted Volunteers load mattresses early this month at the Willmar Slumberland. The mattresses were distributed to families in need as part of the Home for the Holidays program.1 / 3
Submitted Mattresses, box springs, bed rails and quilts wait to be picked up at the Willmar Slumberland as part of the Home for the Holidays program. This year the local store donated 135 mattresses, box springs and bed frames to area families.2 / 3
Submitted Volunteers load bed sets early this month at the Willmar Slumberland. The mattresses were distributed to families in need as part of the Home for the Holidays program. This year the local store donated 135 mattresses, box springs and bed frames to area families.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Hundreds of children and families from the Willmar area have a place to sleep thanks to the nearly 20 years of dedication from the Willmar Slumberland and the Home for the Holidays program, which provides beds to those in need.

"You can't live a healthy life if you don't get a good night's rest," said Paul Barbaro, owner of the Willmar Slumberland.

Since 1998, when Willmar's Slumberland started participating in the charity venture, it has made the Home for the Holidays program its signature contribution to the community.

"In Willmar alone it is 1,500 beds," Barbaro said. "I decided it would be our single, largest community contribution."

Home for the Holidays was started by Slumberland founder Ken Larson in 1993 and harkens back to the company's beginnings.

"Because of our heritage of being a mattress store," Barbaro said.

Between Home for the Holidays and the 40 Winks Foundation, Slumberland — with more than 125 stores in 12 Midwest states — has provided more than 20,000 beds since the beginning of the program, all to make sure children are getting a good night's sleep.

"The goal of the program is to give beds to people sleeping on the floor. There are children who don't have a bed to sleep in," Barbaro said.

Every year Slumberland commits to purchasing a number of beds from Sealy. The store than partners with several service organizations in Willmar to make sure the beds get to the families who need them.

"All those partners have been working with us for many years," Barbaro said.

This year, Willmar's Slumberland, along with a donation from Tempur-pedic, donated 135 mattresses, box springs and bed frames to area families. The Ecumen Retired and Senior Volunteer Program provided handmade quilts to go with the new beds.

Goodwill helps administer the program each year, by keeping a list of the families who have called looking for assistance.

"People call throughout the year for things they are in need of. We want to help," said Douglas Doering, Goodwill transitional employment and career specialist. "It's been very beneficial for Goodwill; it lets us help."

By December, Slumberland tells Doering how many beds will be available. He then contacts the nonprofit partners to tell them how many beds they will receive each.

"It all stems from all these agencies working together. That is what is cool about this community," Doering said.

Doering also sends out letters to those on the list he compiles throughout the year, to tell them they have been chosen to receive a bed or beds, depending on the need.

"I've started the list for 2018 already. Last year we had a lot of calls because of the flood," Doering said. In August 2016, over 8 inches for rain fell in the Willmar area, and many homes suffered damage.

Each year the nonprofit partners meet at Slumberland to pick up and then deliver the beds to the recipients.

"I get to hear that 'Oh, thank you.' I wish Paul could her that more often," Doering said.

Families can also come pick the beds up at Slumberland. That does give Barbaro the chance to meet some of the families.

"It is really pretty incredible to see how grateful people are when this happens," Barbaro said.

Even though Slumberland has helped hundreds of people with the Home for the Holidays program, every year more people need assistance.

"There is a consistent need. It is needed and it is an appropriate thing for us to do," Barbaro said. "We can continue to ask the question 'how much we can contribute?' and we help as much as possible."

The program can be a lot of work, year round, but it is a responsibility Doering is happy to have.

"It has become second nature to do the beds. I'm just grateful Paul lets me be a part of it," Doering said.

While Barbaro said he doesn't do Home for the Holidays for any sort of recognition for himself, those who work closest with him have great things to say about him.

"He is such a spectacular human being," Doering said. "He is really committed to this. He wants everyone to have a good bed."

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