There's nothing like a soft, cuddly comfort of new pajamas on a cold winter night. Especially if you're woman who has just arrived at a domestic violence shelter with just the clothes on your back. Not many people would connect starting a new life with getting to choose from a closet of warm pajamas, but it was obvious to Kelly Sargent, founder of Helen's Pajama Party and owner of Brainstorm Marketing in Des Moines. The non-profit is named after Kelly's mother, Helen, who passed away when Kelly was a child. In 2006 Kelly asked 50 friends and family members to buy new-with-tags pajamas for Des Moines-based shelters. Her effort resulted in 150 pairs which she proudly took to a shelter. She left seeing a greater need; she'd delivered only enough for a six-month supply for just one shelter.
Nearly 3,000 women now seek shelter from domestic abuse each year in Iowa. So today Kelly works to provide each one with a new pair of PJs. Last year Kelly met that goal and expanded to include shelters in Nevada, Arkansas and New York. She's relentless in her all-consuming efforts, using cash donations to shop for bargain tops to match donated bottoms and working with friends and groups like Rotary and the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners to fill the need. What difference does one pair of pajamas make?
Read these words from Sister Charla, the director of New Beginnings in Dubuque: "The first night a woman comes to stay with us, we invite her upstairs to what we call Pajama Dreamland to choose a pair of pajamas that best fit her. We explain that we aren't just talking about size. We are including her dreams and hopes. Today a newly arrived victim, with eyes sparkling for the first time since walking through our door, said that if it were just size it would be easy, but considering what we asked, she said, 'Suddenly I have so many possibilities. Pajamas with flowers: I can plant my own, and no one will stomp them dead. Pajamas with soft colors: I can dream and know my dreams have a chance. Pajamas with puppies: I've always wanted my own dog, and now I could have one. Pajamas with lace and bows: I'm a woman and maybe I can learn to be proud of that. Pajamas with clouds: I can go to sleep and not be afraid.'
Sister Charla continued: "With so many choices, I asked her if one pair would be enough, and she said, 'To have one sweet dream is more than anything I have ever known. One is enough.'"
Bet you didn't know a pair of PJs could evoke such thoughts about one's future. I look at pajamas in a whole new way now, and I purchased a leopard pair for my donation this year. I hope you'll consider helping Kelly's indefatigable effort to make life better, one pair of pajamas at a time. Most needed are small, medium and 2X at this time.