By CRAIG KLEIMEYER
Children have always been a priority for Julie Wahnish. The mom of six and grandmother of 10 first read about a cause close to her heart, Project Night Night, in Traditional Home magazine.
“It just stuck with me for several months and I looked it up on the internet and saw that they were really making a difference,” said the Highland Lakes resident and Double Oak Community Church member. “I just kind of said, ‘I can do that.’”
Project Night Night collects donations, assembles and delivers “Night Night” packages to local homeless children.
When she began helping, Wahnish ordered a lot of bags and started talking to people, and everything fell into place.
“I put together tote bags, and I started calling shelters and told them what we were doing and asked how many they wanted,” she said. “When I delivered the first batch, they used all we had.”
Each Night Night package includes a tote bag stuffed with a security blanket, an age-appropriate book and a stuffed animal for infants up to 12-year-olds, and Wahnish is doing everything she can to collect them.
“So many young people my children’s ages have used books they don’t need any more and stuffed animals that are in good condition,” she said. “Some of these children have been taken out of a bad situation and are homeless and have nothing, and this gives us something that’s theirs. It says to them, ‘Yes, somebody does care about me.’”
For her first project, her team delivered 20 bags to Safe House of Shelby County. Wahnish said it will be an ongoing project for her because of the impact it can have.
“I just didn’t realize the extent of how many children are either in shelters for abused children or homeless in this area, and there are hundreds,” she said.
Hearing stories from shelters makes her excited about her future work with the project.
“The stories they’ve told about how the simplest things like a stuffed animal has made such a big difference in a child’s life,” she said. “The need is great. Children go in and out of these shelters.”
Wahnish hopes to start delivering Night Night packages once a week.
All of the money she receives goes to purchasing the bags, and any extra goes to buy more books. Double Oak Community Church will help out with the project and take up donations later this year. More and more people are stepping in to help.
“As more and more people know about it, I just hope it snowballs,” she said.
You can send checks or items for Project Night Night to Julie Wahnish at 100 Ashland Place, Birmingham, Ala. 35242. Donations to Project Night Night are tax-deductible.
For more information on donating, contact Julie Wahnish at 532-1782 or send an email to Projectnightnightbham@hotmail.com. Visit www.projectnightnight.org for more information on the organization.