A Good Night's Sleep for Those in Need

updated 03/02/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

MARY MARZANO, 49
MAPLEWOOD, N.J.

Not long after Hurricane Ike destroyed her sister's home near Galveston last September, Mary was chatting with a hotel-employee pal, who told her they threw out sheets and towels monthly to supply brand-new ones for guests. Astonished and wanting to help the storm's victims, Mary asked to see the throwaway linens. "They were fluffy towels and comfy sheets," she says. "I thought, this could be a comfort to these poor people."

So a mission was born. Working weekends and borrowing her mother-in-law's SUV, the married advertising-account supervisor shipped about 35 boxes of sheets—enough for 2,000 beds—to municipal officials in the stricken community. Since then, she's focused closer to home, helping deliver about three tons of donated sheets, quilts and bathrobes to her local Goodwill, Salvation Army and area homeless shelters.

Hotels are happy to help. "We've given blankets, sheets, towels, pillows," says Maria Mateus, executive housekeeper at New York's Hilton Garden Inn. "It's great Mary's doing this." At the Market Street Mission shelter in Morristown, N.J., the sheets arrived just in time, says manager Garry Williams. "Without Mary, people would be sleeping on plastic mattresses with no covers—I love her for this." Adds Victor, 28, a shelter resident: "Having a good night's sleep goes a long way. For her to care is a blessing."

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