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Dr. Stacie Emert, board president, straightens up the Little Free Library located at Wakefield Middle School.

Featured Article

Angel Heart Pajama Project

Graciela Lopez understood the power that a cozy pair of pajamas and a good book holds. Escaping Cuba to chase the American dream with her two daughters, she ensured that her children were never without those objects. She believed in the importance of access to pajamas and books so much that she worked tirelessly to provide them for any child who may be without them. In 2013, her and her two daughters founded the Angel Heart Pajama Project to pay this belief forward.

Working with organizations from Tucson to Yuma and practically everywhere in between, the Angel Heart Pajama Project has provided between 37,000 and 38,000 care packages of pajamas, books, and “cuddle pillows” to children in need. Between 25 emergency closets and groups such as the Marana Food Bank and the Tucson Police Department, the care packages are distributed through their individual programs, providing comfort and support for children at a hyper-local level.

After Lopez’s passing in 2016, her legacy is carried on by her daughters, a dedicated board, and leagues of all-ages volunteers. Occupying two rooms at Wakefield Middle School, the space is piled high with pajamas in all sizes and books for all ages. The hands-on operation is in the incredibly capable hands of Dr. Patti Lopez and Dr. Stacie Emert, folding pajamas as the conversation flowed. Both women hail from long and esteemed careers in the educational field, and recognize the importance of placing books into the hands of children. 

Dr. Emert, the board president, explained that in unstable situations, the children are incredibly limited in what they can take with them, sometimes having no chance to pack at all. Giving them something that is expressly theirs, Dr. Lopez added, allows them to feel a sense of ownership and stability amid an unstable environment. Since a book is small and easily transportable, Dr. Emert remarked that, “it can go with them wherever they have to go”. With this philosophy in mind, both women ensure that there is absolutely no shortage of books for all ages and reading levels. Through receiving donations from the community and supplementing through well-deserved grants, there is an abundance of support from a wide variety of avenues.

One such avenue came from someone not even involved with the Angel Heart Pajama Project! This story is shared with permission, however, names are not given in order to protect privacy. Dr. Lopez shared how their impact reached a member of the community, leading to them being unknowingly entered, and winning, a community service grant competition held by GEICO. The person who entered them, a GEICO employee, felt a deep connection with their mission due to their own childhood experiences and was inspired to help in their own unique way. The mission extends beyond just the children the Angel Heart Pajama Project serves, but within the area as well.

Dr. Lopez, the executive director, described, “a tremendous spirit of community” that the organization has found through their service. From a club at Catalina Foothills High School arranging book and pajama drives, to sponsored “Little Free Libraries” that are meticulously taken care of by volunteers, the Tucson community has embraced the mission of the Angel Heart Pajama Project with open arms and open hearts. 

The Angel Heart Pajama Project is currently accepting donations of books and pajamas for children and young adults, spanning from birth to age 22. They are seeking volunteers to help sew cuddle pillows, and are looking to gift a brand new "Little Free Library" to a member of the community. For more information on volunteering opportunities and upcoming events, they can be found online and on Facebook at Angel Heart Pajama Project. 

  • Each care package sent out by the Angel Heart Pajama Project includes pajamas, age-appropriate books, and a handmade "cuddle pillow".
  • Residing at Wakefield Middle School, the storage shelves at Angel Heart Pajama Project overflow with generous donations.
  • Dr. Stacie Emert, board president, straightens up the Little Free Library located at Wakefield Middle School.
  • You can find a wide selection of books for all ages alongside information about Angel Heart Pajama Project inside every Little Free Library!