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Everyday Heroes: Rebekah Black

Jambos Donates

For many children in the state’s foster care system, transitions are often abrupt. Children sometimes move into new foster situations with no more than the clothes on their back.

Rebekah Black is a firm believer that children getting a fresh start in a new home can have some of their anxiety relieved with a brand-new pair of pajamas.

“When kids enter into the foster care system, they are in situations that are less than ideal,” said Black, who five years ago founded the Buford-based Jambos Donates, which provides new pajamas for foster children in Georgia and beyond. “It’s very sudden and it’s very stressful. These kids are getting moved into a foster home with very few of their own things.

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Rebekah Black

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Rebekah Black

“It’s our heart to collect pajamas so we can give them something that’s brand new and it gives them something to change into and get comfortable when they get to their new house. We want them to have one little thing that’s not anxious in their world and we’ve found that pajamas are a huge need.”

Providing new sleepwear for foster children also provides some respite to other parties as well, Black said.

“We’ve found (pajamas are a) huge resource burden of foster parents, as well as DFCS workers. We’re serving three groups of people – we’re serving parents, biological and foster; we’re serving DFCS and clothing closets around the community; and we’re serving the kids.”

As a 14-year-old volunteering at an orphanage in Jamaica, Black – who is also Jambos’ CEO – declared she wanted to “save the world,” and a few years later on a mission trip to Kenya, she decided to focus on making a difference in the lives of children in foster care, of which there are many. According to Georgia DFCS, there are some 7,700 children in foster care and ChildWelfare.gov reports there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States.

In Jambos’ first year, more than 5,000 foster children – 800 of whom live in or around Gwinnett County – received pajamas. By its third year, Jambos had served nearly 14,000 children and collected nearly 23,000 pairs of pajamas. In Year 4, Jambos offered a helping hand in 31 states and eight countries. This year the nonprofit will serve children in 35 states and 13 countries, with a projected 22,000 children outfitted with new PJs.

“We’re going to be sending out 7,000 pairs of pajamas in December and we will be bringing in approximately 27,000 pieces in this winter,” said Black. “So we’re kind of bracing for impact.”

The nonprofit collects most of its pajamas locally, but there are also distribution kits available to collect pajamas from throughout the country and the launching of Jambros to Home makes it easy for foster families to make pajama requests through the organization’s website.

“We partner with the community, with schools, businesses and churches to host pajama drives and we take those brand-new pajamas to our warehouse,” said Black. “Every piece that comes in still has the tags attached. We’re serving itty-bitty babies all the way up to 2XL adult.”

Providing pajamas for older children is Jambos’ most immediate need, said Black.

“Teenager sizes are a huge need of ours because we see so many teenagers in foster care and often times, teenagers kind of get left out of kids in care,” she said. “We’ve made a huge ask to a lot of our partners to focus strictly on teenage or adult-size pajamas.”

This has been a year of notable growth for Jambos, as the nonprofit moved into a 7,000-square-foot building on Main Street in Buford and has been able to make improvements to its system of service.

“We’ve done a lot of infrastructure things,” said Black. “We’ve created new systems, made things easier for partnerships and sponsors and deliveries and pickups. A lot of efficient processes have been put in place, so it’s been a great building year for us. And our team has grown. We’ve added a staff member, but we have tons ahead of us.”

HOW TO HELP

For more information about Jambos Donates, visit www.jambosdonates.com.


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead.

We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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