WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Genevieve Piturro, founder and executive director of the Pajama Program, always wanted to help children and make a difference. It was while working in the hospitality industry that she came up with the idea to start her own non-profit.
"Fifteen years ago I had no plan to start any non-profit,” said Piturro. “I was a workaholic climbing the corporate ladder, and one day I discovered that it had no purpose. It wasn’t fulfilling.”
In 2001, Piturro left her job and created the Pajama Program, a charity which provides new pajamas and books to infants, children and teens in group homes, orphanages and those below the poverty line.
Before establishing the Pajama Program, Piturro volunteered at a local shelter and noticed that many children were sleeping on a cot or a sofa, without changing into any warm or comfortable clothes.
"One week, I asked the volunteers at the shelter if I could bring in pajamas for the kids," said Piturro. "The next week, I brought them in and I'll never forget one child who whispered in my ear, 'What are pajamas?'" For Piturro, those three words changed everything. "Once I heard that I nearly lost it," she said. "Pajamas give children a sense of security, safety and love."
After collecting PJs and books on her own, Piturro reached out to friends and family for more donations. Eventually, Piturro’s charitable work expanded to include donation drives in 34 states and the opening of three reading centers in New York and New Jersey.
"For any child, wearing pajamas makes sleeping easier and that could turn into a better morning and a better day," said Piturro. "It’s magic, that's the only way I can explain it...there's something in the cloth of a pajama and in the pages of a new shiny book that gives children hope and reminds them that they matter."
The Westchester Bank is a proud supporter of the Pajama Program as each of their 5 branch locations serves as a drop-off center should anyone wish to donate PJ’s and books.
To learn more about the Pajama Program or to find out how to donate, click here.