When Genevieve Piturro noticed children didn't have pajamas at the shelter in Harlem where she volunteered, she decided to bring new pajamas on her next visit. She was astounded when a little girl who was about 7 looked at the pajamas and then timidly asked what they were. From that simple question, the Pajama Program was born.
THE PAJAMA PROGRAM
Children taken from their homes in a crisis often find themselves in a shelter with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Realizing this, Piturro began asking friends and relatives for donations of new pajamas. As the donations rolled in-more than 350,000 in the past eight years-she expanded the program. Currently the program operates in 41 states.
In Illinois, more than 150 different agencies receive donations of new pajamas several times a year. The agencies include group homes where children are awaiting foster care or adoption, domestic abuse and homeless shelters, and orphanages.
"These are kids who are put in a life situation they didn't ask for. They're vulnerable and scared," says Shirlee Yeary, Illinois chapter president of the Pajama Program. "When they receive the pajamas, the reaction is pure joy."
The Pajama Program operates year-round and is always looking for donations of new pajamas, size infant to 16, or money to buy pajamas. There is especially a need for pajamas for older children.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.