Rio Communities volunteers collects bags and pajamas for children

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As domestic violence continues to plague families in Valencia County, one local resident has stepped up to help the most innocent victims of this tragic epidemic.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Jo Stasi, far left, has initiated a new program, Bags and Jammies, which collects bags, pajamas and other necessities, for children who are affected by domestic violence. Along with other volunteers, Stasi has collected dozens of bags, hundreds of pajamas and other items to donate to the Valencia Shelter Services. Pictured, from left, are Jo Stasi, Hazel Phillips-Caldwell, Rep. Vickie Perea, Oralia Garcia, an administrative assistant with VSS; Art Castillo, a member of the VSS board of directors; Jacob Sichler, Frank Stasi, Dylan Mitchell, Jarod Sichler, and Nancy Drake and Celeste Gallegos, owners of The Resale Shop and Clothing Exchange.

Jo Stasi, of Rio Communities, began collecting bags and pajamas to give to children who, with their parent, have left domestic violence situations. To date, Stasi has collected more than 70 bags, 350 pairs of pajamas, slippers, baby blankets, numerous stuffed animals and miscellaneous hygiene products to give to those in need of help and comfort.

The program, called Bags and Jammies, has donated all the items to the Valencia Shelter Services, who will hand them out to families and children in need.

“I always thought about children who are taken out of their homes and I thought that a lot of times, they don’t even have a bag to put their things in. They might only have a garbage bag or a brown paper bag,” Stasi said. “I thought they needed a bag of their very own, and wouldn’t it be nice if they had a brand new of pajamas, or at least a gently-used pair, to put on that evening.”

About a month ago, Stasi put out the word about the Bags and Jammie’s project and the community responded, donating suitcases, backpacks, over-night bags and hundreds of a pajamas.

“People have been so generous,” she says. “This is going to be an ongoing charity, and we’re hoping the word gets out so that we can get these out to those who needs them.”

When asked where the idea came from for this project, Stasi simply answered, “From my heart. I was actually reading an article in the News-Bulletin not too long ago that said children (in domestic violence situations) don’t even have underwear sometimes. I had already started this, but it exemplified the need to have this done in our community.”

Stasi said if VSS gets too overwhelmed with donations from Bags and Jammies, they will share the items with the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Along with Stasi’s project, the owners of the Resale Shop and Clothing Exchange in Rio Communities are doing what they can to help families affected by domestic violence as well.

Nancy Drake and Celeste Gallegos, who took over the non-profit store last year, said when they heard about Bags and Jammies, they too wanted to help in anyway they could.

“As a non-profit, we search other non-profits to help out, and one of those is the Valencia Shelter Services,” said Drake. “We are going to produce vouchers for (their clients) so they can come in and we can give them clothes as they need.”

The Resale Shop and Clothing Exchange does the same thing for the Head Start Program, where they can go in and give their vouchers so each member of the family can get a bag full of clothing.

Art Castillo, who has been on the board of directors of Valencia Shelter Services for three months, said he is excited about this new partnership with Stasi and Bags and Jammies.

“I thought this was something very generous that the community is working toward to helping people who are not as fortunate,” Castillo said. “As I indicated to Alexandria (Taylor), our executive director, I’m really supportive of the program. I will do everything I can to move the program forward for less fortunate people.”

Castillo praised Stasi for her thoughtfulness and taking on the call of duty to help people in need.

“I hope she’s able to continue and get more support from the community here,” she said. “We will work with her as well.”

Those who want to donate to Bags and Jammies can call Jo Stasi at 864-0404, or email jsichler1@aol.com.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.