Toronto woman spreads holiday cheer with pyjama donations
Every holiday season, Elizabeth Barry’s home becomes flooded with pyjamas, all wrapped in red ribbon and ready to be taken to shelters in the Greater Toronto Area.
For the last 10 years, the Toronto resident has collected pyjamas for women and children who are spending the Christmas holiday in shelters. She says she started to collect the bedtime attire because she wanted to help others recreate her favourite holiday memory – standing by the tree for a family photograph.
“It really just started out of a feeling. It started out of a memory that I had and still have of Christmas growing up,” Barry told CTV News Toronto. ‘I have a large family – I have five brothers, four sisters, and if nothing else at Christmas, we always got new pyjamas or a new flannel nightgown.”
“The big thrill was that night we would put them on and often my father would bring us all down, put us in front of the tree and take our picture. And I just love that memory. I love that simple memory of new pyjamas.”
Barry calls her initiative “The Christmas Pyjama Project”. In her first year, Barry collected 25 pairs for a woman’s shelter.
Every year that number has increased. In 2017, she delivered 400 cozy pyjamas to seven different GTA locations.
“It’s a little thing, but it’s so simple to me. Everyone’s in a store anyway at Christmas, so it’s so easy to just grab a pair of pyjamas,” Barry said.
Ingrid Graham, the director of development at Nellie’s Shelter, said that the small gesture goes a long way.
“The majority of women coming to us are fleeing with absolutely nothing,” Graham said. “They come to us and they do need pyjamas. They need clothes. They need underwear. So new pyjamas do actually go a long way.”
“What it really does for us is put a smile on the face of the women and kids living in the shelter and for that, it’s priceless,” she added.
For Barry, The Christmas Pyjama Project is something she looks forward to every year. She doesn’t remember how many pyjamas she has collected over the last decade, but says it must be about 1,000.
“I think it’s pretty simple. I don’t want it to be complicated,” she said. “Honestly, it’s really my Christmas. It’s what I do for Christmas.”
With files from CTV News Toronto's Michelle Dube.