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Wanted: new pajamas for needy kids in local area shelters
Adrienne deWolfe 04.FEB.09

The feel-good spirit of the holidays may be long over, but Oak Hill
resident Linda Hunter wants people to know that there are abandoned
or abused children who could still benefit from the spirit of giving. She
is looking for pajamas and books to donate to children in local shelters.

Hunter is the founder of the first Austin-area chapter of the Pajama
Program, which provides comfort and hope to children of all ages
through approximately 70 chapters world-wide. A 501 (c) 3 not-for-
profit organization, the program is headquartered in New York.

"I first learned about the Pajama Program on the Oprah show," said
Hunter, who is the owner of Tumbleweed Travel and has lived in
Austin for 14 years. "So many people donate professional clothing to
women's shelters, so the women can interview for jobs, and many
people donate toys for the children, who have accompanied their
mothers to the shelters, but believe it or not, shelters always need – and
                                                                           The Pajama Program made this needy child
almost never receive – donations of new pajamas."
                                                                              very happy. -photo from the Pajama
                                                                                            Program
Hunter is a long-time volunteer at Safe Place, a shelter for abused
women and their children. "After watching Oprah," Hunter said, "I tried to find a local Pajama Program that might
help (the various shelters at which she volunteers.) I wanted kids to know that people cared about them. I was
surprised that no one had started a chapter in Austin," she said. "Houston and Dallas both have programs, so I
contacted headquarters to see what was needed to get the program started here."

Since single-handedly launching the program late last year, Hunt has taken on the enormous job of educating people
about the existence of the program; enrolling local shelters for pajama donations; training volunteers; and, of course,
hunting for donors. So far, four shelters are enrolled in the program: Safe Place, the Austin Children's Shelter, and
two Salvation Army shelters.

Many children arrive at shelters out of the blue and stay for three months, Hunter says. While new pajamas are
desperately needed by shelters, there is an immediate need for pajamas for older children who might wear sizes
ranging from 10 to 18 in an adult fashion. "Each shelter has between 30 and 60 children on the premises per month.
One shelter may need as many as 250 new sets of pajamas per year," Hunter explained. "My goal is to continue
gathering 150 donations per quarter, no matter the season, so that the shelters have pajamas in supply."

"In addition to donations, I really need more hands – more volunteers," Hunt said. "I'm especially looking for people
to run a pajama and / or book drive at their church, business, or civic organization."
But pajamas aren't the only items the program provides. Children's books are equally desired as donations. "I don't
care how old you are, there's nothing better than crawling into bed with warm pajamas and a good book," Hunter
said. Noting that "books are dear to my heart," she described how she used to instill a love for reading in her
grandchildren when they were as early as two-years-old by reading stories into a tape recorder and mailing the
recordings to her grandchildren, who live out of state. "They knew my voice, and the recordings helped us bond faster
when we got to see each other in person," she explained.

As for donations, Hunter is seeking books, books-on-tape, videos, and DVDs that would be suitable for any aged-
child, including high-school students. Although donors do not have to provide new books or DVDs, Hunter asks that
all pajama donations be new.

"We're thrilled to work with Linda to help Austin," said international Pajama Program Founder, Genevieve Piturro,
who serves as executive director. "We have found that many children are shuffled between temporary living facilities.
Many of these children have been abused or abandoned and have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having a
mother tuck them in at bedtime and read to them. Too many have been abandoned; most have been deprived of any
love at all. We intend to make a difference. Giving back is what it's all about."

Since 2001, the international program has provided 210,000 pajamas and 110,000 books to children in the United
States, Armenia, Bosnia, Brazil, Columbia, Greece, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and Ukraine. Chapters also exist in
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Bulgaria.

The Pajama Program has received publicity from a host of popular media, including O Magazine, network television
news, and the Today Show. On Jan. 18, the program was spotlighted in Washington, D.C., in an event called the
Obama Pajama Party Charity Ball, which was a fundraiser held in conjunction with the Presidential Inauguration.

If you would like to help Hunter provide books and pajamas for Austin-area shelters, e-mail her. For more
information about the program, visit the website, www.pajamaprogram.org.
- Oak Hill Gazette
                                 Southwest Austin's Weekly Newspaper Since 1995


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