For Patricia Poggi of Centereach, every day is a pajama party.
While other altruistic Long Islanders are spending the holiday season donating food to pantries and hauling sacks of toys for needy children, Poggi and her many supporters collect pajamas for children in need of a new pair.
Some children need more under the tree than "Frozen" dolls and Xboxes, Poggi told Newsday.
“It keeps kids warm and cozy and makes them feel safe. You don’t know who’s got what situation, and this makes you feel loved," Poggi, 44, a coffee shop barista and school crossing guard, said. “It brings togetherness and warmth and coziness. Who doesn’t love pajamas?”
Poggi started collecting new, unused pajamas to give away in 2011 and dubbed the effort, "EJ's PJ's," after her sons, Edward, now 21, and Jeremy, now 18. She has a third son, Patrick, 13.
Since the beginning, Poggi's front porch on Helen Street has been the primary drop-off point for pajamas donated by friends, neighbors, unions, police agencies and businesses. The clothes are distributed to emergency shelters, other nonprofits, Connect Church in Centereach, where Poggi is a parishioner, and Brookhaven Town's Interface program, which collects toys and clothing for children in need.
She is holding a collection — with music, snacks and photos with Santa — from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the New Village Recreation Center, 20 Wireless Rd. in Centereach.
Poggi said donations more than doubled last year to 1,167 pajamas from about 500 in 2020. Her goal this year is 2,022, to match the year.
“She'll probably do it, because she’s a go-getter,” Interface coordinator Josephine Lunde told Newsday. The town program gave pajamas from EJ's PJ's to many of the roughly 8,000 children it served last year, she said.
“The kids love them,” Lunde said. “It’s like an extra Christmas present for them and at the same time, it’s something that would not normally be thought of.”
Poggi said the idea for EJ's PJ's began 11 years ago when her brother, Brian Oakes, a former Levittown resident who now lives in Seattle, asked her family to make a gift to charity rather than giving him "a big gift." Pajamas were chosen because of an old tradition Pogi and her brother had, she said.
“We also wore matching plaid pajamas,” she said, adding the charity effort served as “kind of a lesson to teach my boys. Each year, we got more donations.”
In tough times, she said, a simple pair of PJ's can make the holidays merrier and brighter.
“So many kids gets hand-me-down toys and used clothing," she said. "We know it’s made such a huge difference.”