Santa’s Little Helpers to Host Christmas Charity Pajama Party and Holiday Market

Writer / Gavin LaPaille
Photography Provided

Christmas pajamas have become synonymous with the holiday season. Michelle Williams, executive director and founder of Santas Little Helpers, Inc., wants to make sure more children are getting in on the fun. 

Santas Little Helpers, Inc. is a nonprofit organization in Louisville that hopes to empower the lives of children impacted by foster care, especially those in residential facilities. This year the organization is hosting its second annual Holiday Market, with a theme focusing on that late-night loungewear everyone likes to break out around Christmas. 

Williams is asking the public to put on their pajamas, bring a new pair of adult-sized pajamas to donate, and join her December 4 at the Sawyer Hayes Community Center in E.P. Tom Sawyer State Santa’s Little HelpersPark from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., to kick off the holiday season with the Santas Little Helpers, Inc. Christmas Charity Pajama Party & Holiday Market. The event will feature Christmas crafts, face painting, a holiday market, a parade with the Grinch, a silent auction, and pictures with Santa, with the goal of receiving donations for the groups Christmas care packages. 

This is something we do each year for foster kids,” Williams says. The care packages always include a new pair of pajamas. Thats our signature thing each year at Christmas time.” 

Last year Santas Little Helpers donated more than 300 pajamas to foster kids in local residential facilities, thanks in large part to sponsors and individual donors that made donations, and the inaugural Holiday Market. This year Williams is aiming higher, setting a goal of 500 pajamas to donate throughout the city. Williams says donations should be new and unwrapped, in adult sizes for boys and girls. 

Williams says she reaches out to local facilities such as St. Joseph Childrens Home, Bellewood & Brooklawn, and Maryhurst to see what the needs are and what she can donate.

I reach out to them and see who has a need,” Williams says. They all want pajamas. Thats something the kids really look forward to during the holidays. We give out pajamas to everyone as long as we have enough donations.”

The Holiday Market wont be the only avenue the public can use to help Williams achieve her goal. Santas Little Helpers, Inc. will also have Pajama Trees at local Class Act Federal Credit Union locations and at the Louisville Indoor Racquet Club on Westport Road. There will be specific gender and size information on the trees so people can buy a pair of pajamas for a specific child. Once purchased, the pajamas can be dropped off at bins at the same locations. The trees will be available some time in late November, and will run until mid-December of this year. 

The pajama tree is a way to get more people involved,” Williams says. At Christmas time people are looking for ways to help those in need. We know we need 500 pajamas and we dont have the budget to meet those needs. If we can encourage families to buy one pair, that is one less pair we have to figure out how were going to fund.”

Williams started Santas Little Helpers five years ago in an effort to be an inspiration to foster children, and to serve in ways that support them while they face multiple challenges in residential facility environments. She says something that seems small like pajamas can go a long way toward bettering the lives of these children. 

I started this organization five years ago because I wanted to do my part in helping foster children get their basic needs met,” Williams says. They receive support from many avenues, yet they still have more needs, especially at Christmas. My goal is to help normalize their lives by stepping in and providing items that all children enjoy, as well as basic, everyday items.”

Williams became interested in helping foster children after watching her mother unofficially foster children. She also worked with foster children while obtaining her masters degree in counseling psychology.

My mom basically fostered a couple of kids over the years when we were growing up,” Williams says. “I have seven siblings and my mom had a day care. There was always a house full of kids. If there was a kid that didnt have a place to go, they would come to our house. Most of the time it was for a day or so, until they could work things out with their parents. She communicated with their parents to make sure they knew where their kids were, and allowed them to stay until they could work things out. As I grew older I realized it was considered fostering, under the definition. I saw the importance of stepping in and helping kids find a safe place when they are in need. Residential facilities do just that for foster kids.”

Williams says everything came full circle while watching a movie called Christmas Oranges” with her daughter. The movie was about a foster child who is forced to leave her orphanage and move into a situation that is worse, where the only gift the children receive for Christmas is an orange, if they are nice. After watching the movie and realizing there are children out there who may not get any presents for Christmas, Williams went into action to get Santas Little Helpers off the ground. 

Our mission is to build the self-esteem and confidence of foster children by building a foundation of literacy, personal growth and development,” Williams says. One of the reasons we donate pajamas is because kids wear pajamas every day. As they grow, they need new pajamas. A lot of times pajamas, socks and underwear are the basic things people buy for themselves or their kids when they need them. Those are the things people dont really think about for foster kids. Kids need underwear, they need socks, they need pajamas. Those things are really important, but people dont think to donate those kinds of things.”

In addition to the Holiday Market, Santas Little Helpers also hosts a Christmas in July Back to School Party, which generated 500 school supplies that were donated earlier this year. Its all in an effort to help the nearly 8,000 foster children who live in Kentucky, almost 10% of whom reside in Jefferson County. 

Theres a big need for the community to step up and help,” Williams says. Its really a good thing to give at Christmas to help these kids have some semblance of a normal life. A lot of the foster kids have some disability, learning or emotional or behavioral, so they can really use the extra support. They come from complicated backgrounds and that impacts their self-esteem, personal growth and development in various ways. At the end of the day, we must remember they are just kids who want to be kids.” 

Moving forward, Williams says she hopes to continue growing Santas Little Helpers, Inc. so they can impact even more children down the line.

Overall, I would love to expand our service area to all of Kentucky,” Williams says. That would be my ideal goal, where we could serve more foster children around the state. Right now were just in Jefferson County. I would love to expand to the rest of the state and then move to Indiana. We just want to continue to do good in our community by supporting foster children, so they can thrive and have a better chance of being successful when they get out of foster care.”

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