2009-10-08 / News

Spend a night in your PJs for a good cause

By Eileen M. Daly

The chance to have a great evening out and support a wonderful organization – in your pajamas, no less – doesn’t come along often, so be sure to check out Pajamarama from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jamestown recreation center on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Hosted by Bridges Inc., the event will feature family entertainment, with music by the Elderly Brothers and storytelling by local storyteller Andrew Potter.

Though the event itself is all about fun, for Bridges Inc., it’s also an opportunity to bring the community together to have a great time while supporting community members with developmental disabilities, Staff Development Director Marilyn Thomas said.

“We wanted to put on a fundraiser that Jamestowners would really enjoy. Come in your pajamas, bring sleeping bags, blankets and pillows, or sit in the chairs that will be available,” she said. “The close harmony group, The Elderly Brothers, will perform music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, as well as some original music, and Andrew Potter does a wonderful visual presentation along with his storytelling.”

Bridges Inc. is a Jamestownbased human services agency that supports individuals with developmental disabilities. The organization’s purpose, according to its website, is to “assist people in participating as fully as possible in all aspects of their lives and we support people to be productive members of their communities. In a way we are life coaches, helping wherever and whenever we are needed. We offer round the clock services for people who want or need 24-hour assistance. We also provide less than 24 hour support for people who may live more independently, live at home or want day services only.”

With 150 employees, including direct support professionals, a psychologist, nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and physical therapists, the organization serves 70 clients in a variety of settings throughout southern R.I., including two group homes and a day program right here in Jamestown.

“Jamestown has always been great. We opened our first group home here in Jamestown 23 years ago and over the years, the community has been very, very supportive,” Thomas said.

Community support is essential to the safety and well-being of the clients served by Bridges, Thomas said.

“Our goal is to empower people and, to borrow a phrase from the military, help them to be all they can be,” she said. “R.I. has always been in the forefront of helping people with disabilities to live in their communities, to have the opportunity to have jobs, be neighbors and make friends. Our executive director, Lisa Rafferty, always says, ‘the more people in the lives of the people we support who are not paid, the safer it will be for our people.’”

She said that although the organization has many longtime employees, there are always a certain number of staff members who, for a variety of reasons, only stay for one to three years. When people befriend Bridges’ clients, they tend to become lifelong friends, Thomas said.

Thomas also said that volunteering in any way is a boon not only to the people served by Bridges, but also to the volunteers themselves.

“So often I hear people say that they get so much back from our clients, that they learn so much from them and from volunteering here,” she said.

Of course, during these tough economic times, the help is even more greatly appreciated than ever before, she said.

“Anyone who has a particular skill that they would like to share or has an afternoon to spend with our clients, we’d love to have them,” she said. “Volunteers can provide so much. For instance, at Pajamarama, we will be showcasing – and also offering for sale – many items made by our clients. Some of those items include shopping bags sewn by a gentleman who learned how to make them from a volunteer who likes to sew. She comes one afternoon a week and helps with sewing projects. They really enjoy her company and she has become a friend.”

Bridges receives most of its support from Medicaid, but as with many agencies across the state, cutbacks have hit hard.

“The money that we raise from Pajamarama or other fundraising efforts supports recreational programs like bowling, art or music programs. It might also make the difference between whether or not a client gets out to visit a friend or to attend a concert,” Thomas said.

Tickets for Pajamarama are available at the Bridges office at 11 Clinton Ave. or at Baker’s Pharmacy. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended to ensure seating for all, but a limited supply of tickets will be available at the door. Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $10 for children.

Call 423-1153 for more information.

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