OC Christ Episcopal Church launches annual pajama drive

The simple belief that “every child deserves a good night” has yielded hundreds of new children’s pajamas and books for local families.

That project, organized by Christ Episcopal Church in Oil City, is now underway for the eighth year.

“Last year we gathered 691 pairs of pajamas – that’s incredible,” said Sarah Margherio, church member and founder of the pajama project. “Everyone has been so generous,” she said.

In 2011, Margherio, a retired elementary school teacher, learned about a pajama drive conducted by the Scholastic book clubs. Eyeing the project as one that could benefit area children, she suggested her church take it on.

“Our congregation is small and aging, and we do not have people who can go out into the community and do something like home repairs,” she said. “I thought, though, that we could handle this and maybe gather 20 or 30 pairs. By Christmas, we had 253 pairs of pajamas and cash enough to buy age-appropriate books.”

Since its inception, the PJ collection effort has yielded more than 3,500 pairs of all-new night clothes and books.

The PJs and books have been shared with numerous local organizations for distribution. They include Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, children of adults in the AA recovery program, numerous local elementary schools, Community Services of Venango County, Family Service and Children’s Aid Society, Jamie’s Kids and others.

Wide community support.

“This has truly spread into our community in a wonderful way,” said Margherio.

Just recently, a local woman hosted her family’s Christmas party and instead of a gift exchange, each relative was asked to take a pair of pajamas and a book. That tucked 20 sets into the collection, Margherio said.

In another story, Margherio said a local doctor’s mother was visiting here years ago. She read an article in the newspaper about the project and has since sent in pajamas and books every year from her central Pennsylvania home.

The pajama quest has also drawn in former Oil City area residents who stay in touch with Margherio.

“In the past three years, I have received donations of cash and pajamas from classmates in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Erie,” she said. “And, all four of my college roommates send pajamas from York, Baltimore, Michigan and Meadville,” she said.

No fees, no costs.

In keeping with the church mission, there are no administrative fees, no taxes, no charitable giving forms. All donors need to do is donate a new set of pajamas or cash to buy books. The efforts are geared towards youngsters, especially school-age children.

“I grew up in a family of readers,” said Margherio, noting she lived close to the Oil City Library and regularly spent hours there. “I have wonderful memories of listening to bedtime stories with my mother and of sharing my love of reading with my daughters and granddaughters. Many children have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having an adult tuck them in at night with warm pajamas and a bedtime story,” Margherio said.

New pajamas or cash donations may be dropped off at Christ Episcopal Church on Central Avenue from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays or at the Margherio home at 552 Bouquin Circle, Oil City. The collection will continue through November.

For Margherio and the Christ Episcopal Church congregation, the mission is rewarding on all fronts.

“The simple gift of pajamas and a book lets children know that someone cares,” she said. “Because everyone deserves a good night.”