Sweet Dreams: Emily Gertson's Clothing Drive
During her former life as an elementary school teacher in a low-income school district in Boling, Texas, Emily Gertson often worried about the underprivileged children in her class: the ones who never had enough to eat, wore the same outfit days in a row, and didn't have their own school supplies.
Although Gertson left teaching in 2006 to be a stay-at-home mom, those students still weighed on her mind. Six months later, after watching a TV show about women who collect clothing for at-risk and foster children, she was inspired to take action. "I learned that these kids are often removed from their home with just the clothes on their back," Gertson says. "I wanted to give them something that would help them feel more comfortable and less scared, and new pajamas seemed like a good place to start."
Gertson decided to hold a pajama drive to benefit her local Child Protective Services (CPS), which investigates child neglect and abuse claims and offers foster care and adoptions. She spread the word by calling and e-mailing friends, church members, and the local Cub Scout troop. More than 100 pairs of pajamas soon appeared. Gertson then planned a second event with the help of neighbor Shelley DeLuna. By the end of the six-week drive they had collected a whopping 1,500 pairs of new pajamas, plus diapers, shampoo, soap, and toys. The drives were such a success that Gertson and DeLuna have now expanded their mission to include backpacks, sneakers, and school supplies.
The new pj's did more than just make the kids' nights a little cozier. "When they realized they got to keep them, the children were surprised and happy," says Gertson. "CPS officials told me that some of the kids had never owned anything new in their lives."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2010.