Pajamas from near and far

by Terri Winder
Books are Lana Latham’s love language.  They always have been.  
That might be a little obvious when you consider that she was a librarian for seven years, and the name of her preschool–which she has taught for eight years now–is called Books Alive.
However, before she worked for the Blanding branch of the San Juan County Library, or had a preschool, she had bookshelves filled with books for her own little ones.
Teaching preschool is simply another way to continue doing what she loves best: reading children’s books.
It would also stand to reason that someone who loves books and teaches preschool would have a standing account with Scholastic Books.  And all of that is what started a new chapter in Lana’s life, so to speak.  
About six years ago she was reading that Scholastic Books accepts donations of new pajamas from schools, and then they pair the pajamas with a book and give it to someone in need.  
Lana thought that was a wonderful idea – all except the sending it far far away to some unknown person. She reasoned, “Why donate to a big corporation when there are children in our own community that don’t have the blessing of a bedtime story?”
And then she decided to do something about it.  
The first year Lana sent home a flyer with her two dozen preschoolers, explaining her project and asking for donations. She also asked Janet Wilcox (who has nearly the whole town on a group email list) to help get the word out.  
She went to the San Juan School District Early Intervention program, explained her project and asked for a list of needed pajamas, by size and gender.  
Then Lana chose books – a board book or a picture book, depending on the child’s age – to go with the pajamas.
“We were really surprised and pleased to get about 50 pairs of pajamas that first year,” Lana says.  
She enlisted the help of her family, especially her daughters Saibra and Lexus, and her daughter-in-law, Lexi. She said they “all had a lot of fun” wrapping the sets.  They attached a little poem to each one:
Star light, star bright,
I’d love a
bedtime story tonight.
With cozy pajamas
and the stars above,
I’ll fall asleep
...knowing I’m loved.
Each year the amount of donations has grown; last year they received about 130 pairs of pajamas. They also started adding larger sizes of pajamas, matched up with chapter books as, “We started getting quite a few teenagers on the list,” Lana explained, pleased by the development.
Lana has extended her search for needy children through church groups and the State of Utah Social Services in San Juan County.  
After those lists are filled, any leftover sets are taken down to the Gentle Ironhawk Shelter where children seeking a safe haven throughout the year are given the comforting gift of new pajamas and a bedtime story book.
Lana says her preschool furnishes the books–but that’s just a humble way of saying she buys them.
She watches the Scholastic Book flyers for good choices all year long.  And if she doesn’t get a donation of pajamas for a size she needs, then she also goes and buys what’s lacking there, too.
Despite the fact her daughters have grown up and left home (Saibra has her own family now and lives across the state: Lexus is serving an LDS mission), so Lana doesn’t have as much help as she used to, she says she would like to see the program grow more throughout the county, extending beyond its present reach.
“It’s really fun,” she says, “I love doing it.”
Then she adds, “I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to see the generosity of people.  Last year, because of my daughters putting the word out over social media, we even received pajamas from people in Panguitch, Orem, and Moab.  It makes my heart full.”
If you would like to be part of this fifth year’s project, you may drop off a pair (or more) of pajamas–any size–at Lana Latham’s home, 380 North 400 West in Blanding, before December 6. You may also call her with any questions: 435-678-2645.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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