The New Jersey Chapter of the Pajama Program is hoping to build on the milestones they reached in 2011.

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The chapter is an off-shoot of the non-profit organization, Pajama Program, which provides new pajamas and new books to children in need. The organization was started in New York. After Geri Schleich heard about the charity, she launched the first chapter of the non-profit in New Jersey in 2004, becoming president.

Pajama Program collects pajamas and books, and distributes them through receiving organizations, which are institutions where at risk children are living, such as shelters, orphanages, group homes, foster care homes, and temporary housing facilities. Among the receiving organizations in New Jersey are: DYFS, Head Start, food pantries, pediatric HIV clinics, and social service agencies.

"The children we serve really have not done anything other than be born," she explained, "And many of the kids that we see don't even know that they are poor."

All 21 counties in New Jersey are served by Schleich's chapter.

About 300 pajamas and books were distributed by the New Jersey Chapter in year one. Since then, the growth has been has been remarkably explosive, which it's needed to be to meet the demand.

"It grows every single year, which is why we try so hard to get more than the previous year," Schleich said.

2011 was a banner year for the charity, when they distributed over 25,000 pairs of pajamas and books to 331 receiving organizations.  Last year's campaign put Pajama Program New Jersey over the top to hit their milestone of 100,000 pajamas and 60,000 provided.

Still, because of the tough economic conditions, Pajama Program has a tough time keeping up with the ever-growing waiting list.

"When we visit these children to distribute pajamas," she said, "If you could see the looks on their faces when they receive a new pair of pajamas, how happy they are to get this item of clothing that everybody takes for granted, you'd understand how important it is to them."

Schleich reiterated that pajamas and a book may not sound like a big deal to most, it is a way to help these children sometimes have a temporary break from their difficult lives.

"It lets them know that people care, and it makes the night less scary for them," she said.

The New Jersey Chapter has set a lofty 2012 goal to provide new pajamas and books to 30,000 children. Schleich admits that she is blown away by the progress the charity has made in such a short time, and hopes to reach their targeted mark this calendar year.

"I never expected to see the generosity that we have seen," Schleich said, "The people of New Jersey have been extremely generous."

Learn more and find out how you can help Pajama Program by visiting their website, or checking them on Facebook.



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