WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. The easy path for The Westchester Bank to take in support of the Pajama Program would be to simply make a monetary donation. The Bank’s commitment, however, extends much deeper with this national program that provides new pajamas and books to children in need.
“They’ve been supportive since the first time I met John and Kristin,’’ said Genevieve Piturro, Pajama Program’s Founder and Executive Director, speaking about The Westchester Bank’s President and CEO John Tolomer and Kristin Ball, the Bank’s Vice President of Human Resources. “They’re always ready to help. It’s a very personal relationship between us, the children and the people at The Westchester Bank.”
Piturro, a Yonkers native and resident of Irvington, founded the Pajama Program in 2001 to help create a warm and nurturing bedtime environment for youngsters living under difficult circumstances. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit targets children from newborns to age 18, many of whom are without parents or permanent homes. The organization, headquartered in New York, has 60 chapters in 33 states with eight chapters in New York State including Westchester County, Putnam and Orange and Rockland.
The Westchester Bank helps in a variety of ways, including book readings from the staff at various centers throughout Westchester, and it’s not uncommon to find John Tolomer reading to the children as well. “It’s rare that someone like John, the head of a big business, will come down and read to kids,’’ Piturro said. “He reads, he talks to the children, he thanks the kids and tells them how proud he is of them. He explains things to them, and you don’t have to coax him. He has a lot of fun with it and brings a big smile every time.”
The Westchester Bank also organizes “StuffABus”, a bus that’s filled with books and pajamas from Bank “Pajama Drives” at all branch locations throughout Westchester. And while donations pour in for younger children, the Bank targets older children with donations of largersized pajamas.
“When they agreed to support us, John was very clear that he wanted this to be more than a financial donation,’’ Piturro said. “His employees get excited about it. They really understood that when people give, they give small sizes. But we serve a lot of kids that are teenagers. There a four group homes within walking distance of where I live that are filled with kids ages 12 and up. They need things, too. Westchester County, for all of its affluence, also has deep pockets of poverty but have businesses that are generous and want to give back. There are groups everywhere that need help.”
Piturro said having a business such as The Westchester Bank supporting its mission helps bring the community closer together.
“When you have a successful, growing company reaching out to help, it’s a tremendous benefit,’’ she said. “Westchester has two populations. There are a lot of children and families that would love to have a piece of success. It makes children especially feel so
much better about themselves when someone is simply paying attention to them. We feel really blessed to do what we’re doing, and to have the support of The Westchester Bank.”