Jen and John Grimes of Mifflin Township are competing in the Domestic Violence Shelter's annual Sleep Out. 

MADISON -- Jen and John Grimes basically moved into the parking lot of Paone’s Quality Pre-owned Vehicles on Thursday afternoon. 

The Mifflin Township couple brought blankets, pillows, a big screen television, both their dogs -- Molly and Stemi -- and a strong desire to outlast one another.

They intended to stay awake through Labor Day Weekend while collecting donations for the Richland County Domestic Violence Shelter’s sixth annual “Great Sleep-Out Against Domestic Violence,” which organizers hope will raise more than $45,000.  

The event kicked off Thursday at 4 p.m. with a presentation by the shelter’s executive director, Kathy Ezawa, and John Matthes, owner of Paone’s Quality Pre-owned Vehicles and Johnny’s Mattress and Furniture Store. 

“This all began six years ago with John’s harebrained idea,” Ezawa said. “I wasn’t sure what to think of it initially, but it’s raised more and more money for us every year. The community has been great about supporting us.” 

Last year, the event brought approximately $43,000 in pledges, blowing the organization’s $35,000 goal out of the water. According to Ezawa, this covered approximately one fifth of the Shelter’s required local match dollars for federal grants, which essentially cover the Shelter’s expenses. 

“This helps us support domestic violence survivors. It really helps us to save lives,” she said. 

The Shelter, she later continued, has been at full-capacity for the past several months. 

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I wish we didn’t need that facility,” Matthes said. 

But so long as there’s a need, he promises to support the Shelter’s mission. The business owner provides the location, the mattresses, wifi and more for the event. 

This year six teams, which feature representatives of local businesses, will compete to stay awake for the Sleep Out. While positioned on a mattress outside Paone’s on Ashland Road, the team leader contacts their coworkers, friends, family and others to raise money for the Shelter. 

That team leader must stay awake and on the mattress, with the exception of bathroom breaks every two hours. Other members of the organization are encouraged to attend in support, but they can’t switch off with the team leader.

On the line are trophies -- for both the team that stays awake the longest and the team that raises the most money -- and, of course, bragging rights. The latter is what brought the Grimes to compete at the Sleep Out. 

“My goal is just to outlast my husband,” said Jen Grimes.

She has worked firsthand with victims of sexual assault as a nurse for Avita Ontario’s Forensic’s Department and seen her coworkers partake in the Sleep Out, previously.

“They said it was my turn,” she said.

Her strategy is to do yoga and easy workouts and to daydream. 

“If I can’t dream, I’ll daydream,” she said. 

Her husband, John, represents the Madison Township Fire Department. Like Jen, he’s never participated in the Sleep Out before. 

Fire Chief Ron Luttrell feels confident in John’s ability to stay awake for a long period of time, but declined to say whether or not he’ll outlast Jen. 

“I have to remain neutral,” Luttrell said. “I think they’re both going to do well.” 

Other teams include Holli Lykins from the Richland County Sheriff's Office, Sarah Lahman from the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office, Jen Coffindafer of OhioHealth Mansfield and Sharla Hagerdorn of Richland Bank.

Further, throughout the weekend, Johnny’s Mattress and Furniture Store and Paone’s will serve as a drop off location for household and food items to fill the shelter’s pantry.  

Food vendors will be present and will donate a portion of their proceeds to the shelter.

To donate or see other ways to support the Shelter, scan the code below or visit the Shelter's Facebook page.

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