“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew
Photo: Ana (left); Genevieve (right) at the Pajama Program Gala in 2016
Over the past few months we’ve been collecting stories—and not just the new books we receive from generous donations, but real-life stories from our staff, volunteers and friends. We wanted to know and share the story of their path to Pajama Program. How did they hear about us? What was their bedtime like as a child? What is their role in our story? There are thousands of nonprofits, why Pajama Program?
If you’re on social media you may have seen some of these stories or “staff highlights” but there is one volunteer story in particular that we wanted to share in this newsletter. Not only is this person very special to Pajama Program (she was one of Pajama Program’s first volunteers!) but her story is one that highlights how comforting bedtimes and kindness can transform days, spirits, and encourage helping others. She’s there at Reading Parties. She’s there at bedtime. She’s there for the children we work with. People like her are an important part of our story. Meet Ana Fraioli.
Ana first heard about Pajama Program by simply listening to the radio on a winter day back in December 2003. She was tuned-in to local NYC radio station KTU (103.5) when she first heard founder Genevieve Piturro being interviewed by a disc jockey that she attended college with.
A natural assistant and organizer, Ana knew she wanted to get involved and that her strengths and expertise could support Pajama Program. She reached out and met Genevieve on February 5, 2004. One of Ana’s first tasks was creating Pajama Program’s first mailing list. This helped keep track of everyone who donated pajamas and books and made sure they received a thank-you note. In retrospect, Ana was responsible for keeping files and information on the first people to receive this newsletter! Over the years, not only has she expanded and organized Pajama Program and its community relations, but she was also at the opening of the Andrus Hall Reading Center in Yonkers, NY.
Today, Ana organizes Pajama Program readings with a local foster care home. Pajama Program hosts about 7 or 8 readings with this organization per week! She is also the one who coordinates volunteer applications and background checks for those interested in volunteering to read with the children she works with.
“Every time I volunteer there is a special moment. The children are all so special and just need some attention. Last week, I was reading with a few of the children and one of the kids had not said a word since she was there. I believe she was already there for 2 days. She finally started mumbling while she was trying to read the book back to me. Just to know that she felt safe and comfortable was huge to me,” said Ana.
Besides reading with the children, Ana and the volunteers also assist with dinner and a bedtime routine to provide comfort. “After dinner, the children all get to put on a new pair of pajamas and then we continue reading. There are volunteers who stay late and help put the children to bed.”
Growing up as a child, Ana had special memories with family but bedtime wasn’t a special routine due to restrictive schedules.
“I love pajamas—the more color, the better. My parents immigrated from Austria to the United States and both worked a lot of hours and we never had story time or bedtime rituals when I was growing up. I guess that is why Pajama Program is so special to me—I am so happy that I can do this for someone else.”
Pajama Program may be special to Ana, but she is incredibly special to us!
Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.