In these uncertain times, it’s often the simplest gifts that warm our hearts. And what could be more simple — and warm — than a brand new pair of comfy pajamas?
A Buford-headquartered, faith-based organization called Jambos has made outfitting children in foster care with new pajamas its mission. The organization’s founder, Rebekah Black, was about 14 years old and volunteering in an orphanage in Kingston, Jamaica, when she realized she had a desire to help children in need during an especially tumultuous time in their lives.
“Children were arriving with few of their belongings,” the Buford resident remembered. “That seemed like a third-world issue until I got older and realized it was happening in my backyard.
Black has since turned that dream to help children in need into reality. The mom to three girls left a full-time career in marketing and sales to start Jambos in her living room two years ago. In that time, the organization has provided new pajamas for more than 12,000 children and opened its headquarters off Hamilton Mill Road in Buford. Jambos serves almost all of the state of Georgia, seven other states and three countries.
The name Jambos comes from two references — “jambos” is what Black’s parents called pajamas when she was a child and “jambo” is a Swahili greeting to extend a warm welcome, “the kindest word to say hello,” said Black, who recalled getting jambos from her father at Christmas.
“I know the feeling that comes with receiving brand new pajamas,” she said. “I know what it’s like to rip the tags off and put on new jammies.”
Children in foster care who are often set adrift with very few possessions of their own appreciate and even delight in the comfort that simple gift can give, Black said.
“A lot of people donate a lot of things, and it’s my heart to give these children something practical they need,” she said.
Black said the most significant need at this time is pajamas for older children. The need is so great that Jambos is launching a new program in 2021 called Jambos Teen to specifically address the need for pajamas for older children in adult sizes small to 4X. The organization has started an internship program with North Gwinnett High School with interns tasked to lead the program launch.
“There is a huge need to serve high schoolers, middle schoolers,” Black said. “Oftentimes those kids are left out.”
There are several ways local residents can support Jambos and its mission — businesses, schools, churches and organizations can host pajama drives, while individuals can make monetary donations and volunteer to pack pajamas. The need for volunteers is especially great during this time of year, Black said.
Jambos is currently partnered with 12Stone Church locations, Green City Nutrition in Buford and Dojo Karate in Flowery Branch for pajama drives.
Information on supporting Jambos is available on the organization’s website at www.jambosdonates.com and Jambos is active on Facebook, posting new pajama drives and volunteer opportunities at www.facebook.com/jambosdonates.
Black said Jambos is expecting 15,000 pajamas to be donated this holiday season, pajamas that will bring comfort and a sense of ownership to children in need in foster care.
“More than anything, we care about them,” Black said of those children, “and we’re just going to use pajamas to show it.”
— Deanna Allen