Hamilton twin sisters’ pajama foundation helps Mercer County kids
HAMILTON (Mercer) — Lauren and Mackenzie Multari have had an eye for charity since they were in kindergarten. Now seventh-graders, the twins have sharpened that focus in a way that is continually helping those less fortunate than them, and has even earned recognition from the President of the United States.
The girls are the namesakes behind Lala & Mimi's Pajama Project, a 501(c)(3) organization that formally launched when they were in fourth grade. They're listed as the founders now, but the plan is for them to become co-presidents of the group once they finish college, according to their mother, Ro.
The roots of the PJ Project, for short, in fact do go all the way back to their kindergarten birthday party. Kids at that age traditionally invite their whole class to celebrate their birthday, and instead of having to deal with a mountain of presents, the Multaris came up with an idea, in part thanks to "The Oprah Winfrey Show": Why not ask for donations of new pajamas that could be redistributed to a national foundation to help less fortunate children?
It was supposed to be a one-off fundraiser, but every year it seemed to keep growing. And forming it into a foundation of its own gave Lauren and Mackenzie full control over where the pajamas got donated — mostly within Mercer County — and allowed them to customize the donations for genders, sizes, and styles in particular demand.
The sisters have gotten wonderful support within the township, their mom said, and their organization is still "bare bones," but they are always trying to expand to non-school groups throughout Mercer.
"We still want to keep it very close to home, but we know there's such a need that we haven't tapped, even just in our own backyard," Ro Multari said.
As for continuing projects within the Hamilton public school system, one such event is coming up next month. It's Pajama Day, which is usually an excuse for students not to change into new clothes in the morning, but this one has a fundraising component to benefit the PJ Project. That Pajama Day wrinkle began years ago at the girls' elementary school, and has now spread districtwide.
"On the Pajama Day, which is Friday, March 23, the students can wear their pajamas but they have to bring in $3," Mackenzie said.
Donations to Lala & Mimi's Pajama Project are now accepted year-round, and Ro said they just passed the 6,000 mark in number of pajamas. Styles for all seasons are sent to the schools and organizations that need them, which especially comes in handy when the sisters lend their volunteerism to places outside New Jersey's one-extreme-to-the-other climate.
"After Hurricane Harvey, we got in contact with an elementary school in Houston, so we donated pajamas," Lauren said.
This type of thoughtfulness is what has landed the girls a President's Volunteer Service Award in each of the last two years, last year as a team and this year as separately recognized individuals.
Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. He probably has too many pajamas. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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