APTOS — A little more than a decade ago, Ariadne Symons was stuck on a plane in New York during a long layover, and read an in-flight magazine out of sheer boredom.
Her boredom evaporated, however, when she saw a story about someone in Connecticut who launched a charity that collects pajamas for low-income children.
“I thought, ‘I could do that,’” Symons said.
And so Symons, who was then a Santa Cruz County assistant district attorney and is now a Superior Court judge, created Project Pajamas.
In its first year, volunteers collected 600 pairs. That number has fluctuated through the years, with a high this year of 2,400, Symons said. That pushed the lifetime total to about 10,100.
These go to such organizations as Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, the Rebele Family Shelter, Monarch Services, Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center and Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services.
The organization’s annual drive, which culminated on Oct. 21, is sponsored by Twin Lakes Church as part of Make a Difference Day, and by the Sunrise Rotary.
After that, volunteers package and label the pajamas, which then are hand-delivered to the organizations that need them.
Project Pajamas is run with the help of Sunrise Rotary and Twin Lakes Church.
Symons said that the pajamas are meant for children whose families have been affected when their parents and caretakers face such issues as homelessness, drug addiction and the criminal justice system.
“Whatever is going on, it’s not their fault,” she said. “If we can help them be a little warmer at night, it’s just a little something we can do.”
Pajaro Valley Shelter Services Program Manager Annette Melendrez said her organization received 100 pairs, for children newborn to 17.
“It means a lot to individual families that are unable to provide for their children,” Melendrez said. “This is one less thing they have to worry about. We’re very grateful to Ari for taking the lead and giving her heart and going full-force.”
Project Pajamas accepts donations of cash or pajamas. Donations can be taken to Twin Lakes Church at 2701 Cabrillo College Drive in Aptos.