One day a year, visitors arrive at the Good Ol’ Days House in Belle Vernon clad in footed pajamas, fleece robes, plaid flannel PJs and fuzzy slippers. They nosh on holiday snacks and sip winter beverages as they tour the charming, nostalgic guesthouse on Broad Avenue.
The occasion? The annual Good Ol’Days Christmas Pajama Party and Open House, a fundraiser for Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The price of admission is a pair of new pajamas for victims of domestic violence and their children.
“Many people in our community are aware of and often read about these sad domestic violence situations, and they want to help,” says event organizer and the home’s owner, Melanie Patterson. “This annual event has created an opportunity for those who want to make a difference to these women and children who need our help.”
An entrepreneur, Patterson says she had a “light bulb moment” in December 2008, while in the middle of renovating and updating the house.
She ran across a magazine article about a women’s club that collected new pajamas for homeless children in the Philadelphia area as a community outreach project. Patterson hosted the first Christmas Pajama Party and Open House in 2009, and she has held the event every year except one since then.
Over the years, the pajama party has grown into a community event. Participants donate hundreds of pairs of new pajamas and other items at the pajama party. In addition, Mon Valley churches, businesses and organizations also collect pajamas to donate to Patterson to forward to DVSSP. Some local businesses serve as drop-off centers for pajamas and supplies.
“It’s a great event and a creative way to draw attention to an organization that some people might not be aware of,” says Amy Zdilla, whose husband, Dr. Michael Zdilla, owns Zdilla Family Chiropractic on Rochester Road in Belle Vernon. The chiropractic office is a drop-off center.
“It’s a good time and a great cause,” says Michael Zdilla.
Domestic Violence Services appreciates Patterson’s efforts.
Kelly Young, donations coordinator for DVSSP, says the fundraiser enables the organization to replenish its stock of pajamas and other supplies during the holiday season.
“We truly appreciate all of the effort that Melanie puts forth to make this event happen for us,” Young says. “A majority of the women come here come with nothing more than the clothes on their back. The pajamas are something new and something just for them. Something simple like that means a lot to the ladies and provides them with some normalcy. Usually, this time of year we’re running low on pajamas, and this is a big help.”
Other items on the DVSSP “wish list” are gift cards to department and grocery stores, gasoline stations and toy stores; twin and full bed sheet sets; non-perishable canned goods, slippers, socks, sports bags, books, diaries and journals; and children’s toys, including ethnic dolls.
From July 2016 to June 2017, 136 adults and 81 children stayed in DVSSP safe houses in Washington and Fayette counties, according to Young.
One in four women – and one in seven men – will become victims of domestic violence, Young says. Additionally, every day, three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
A Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania representative will attend the Open House to distribute literature and provide information about domestic violence and to collect the pajamas and supplies.
Janice Stitchnick, owner of Antiques on Broad, has attended Patterson’s pajama parties (dressed in her PJs, of course), and has taken up a pajamas collection for Patterson’s fundraiser every year since the event began.
“The pajama party is a fun event, but at the same time, it’s for a worthwhile cause. We want to let the victims of domestic violence know there is somebody out there who wants to help them,” Stitchnick says. “We’re fortunate to have Melanie in this community, because she helps so many groups in need. We businesses on Broad Avenue are like a big family, and we like to help whenever we can.”
The Good Ol’ Days House, a classic American Foursquare home built in 1928, was originally owned by Patterson’s grandparents, Joseph and Josephine Stringhill, Italian immigrants who raised 12 children. The couple moved into the home in 1949, a short time after the state bought the home they had built in 1921 on Grant Street to make way for Interstate 70.
Patterson purchased the home from relatives after her aunt, Janie Mitchell, passed away.
“There are many great memories, good food, good times, sad times, and love and laughter inside this home. And with my Aunt Janie’s passing, it felt like the end of those memories,” Patterson says.
So, she decided to turn the house into a unique rental home.
The guesthouse is filled with furniture and pieces spanning several decades, and contains a 1930s dining room set and an early 1900s Victorian bedroom set that belonged to the family; memorabilia from the 1950s through 1980s, original seats from the former Liberty Theater in Donora, and seats from Three Rivers Stadium that are signed by Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski.
During Christmas time, the house is decked out with authentic, old-fashioned Christmas decorations and a fresh-cut tree. Classic Christmas movies and favorite Christmas television shows play non-stop on vintage televisions. Guests are encouraged to play classic board games set out beneath the tree.
For Patterson, Christmas is the season of goodwill and caring for others.
“I want to thank everyone who has participated in our pajama parties in the past, and I look forward to seeing all of them again this year,” Patterson says. “May the magic of an old-fashioned Christmas fill your hearts and homes with joy today and every day.”
The Good Ol’ Days Christmas Pajama Party and Open House will be held on Dec. 7 from noon to 8 p.m. at the Good Ol’ Days House, 914 Broad Ave., Belle Vernon. Admission is a new set of pajamas. Any size, especially large-2X, is welcome. Sleepwear suggestions include lounging pants, sleep shirts and T-shirts, and children’s pajamas up to size 12. Visitors are encouraged, but not required, to wear pajamas. For additional information, contact the Good Ol’ Days House at 724-331-3654.