Crystal Allen was 6 when a Glassboro shelter for domestic violence survivors became her home.
Her mother, Laura, a drug addict married to a drug addict, needed a safe place to live with her three young daughters.
Crystal Allen doesn't remember much about those dark times in 1989, but she hasn't forgotten the refuge the shelter offered her family.
And after their mother died in 2010, Allen and her sisters found a way to honor her memory while helping other domestic abuse survivors, too.
Their nonprofit, all-volunteer organization, Mom's Pajamas, accepts donations of brand-new packaged pajamas for women, and distributes them to the Glassboro shelter and two similar facilities in Camden and Cumberland Counties.
"We are so grateful," says program manager Mary Love of the Center for Family Services, which operates the Glassboro facility. "We are able to provide new pajamas for every one of the moms in our domestic-violence safe house."
"The first Christmas after my mom died, I bought some pajamas, which I had been buying her for Christmas for 10 years, and donated them to the shelter," recalls Allen, 32.
Her sisters - Sharon Hamer of Florida and Jennifer Allen of Georgia - liked the idea. So did Allen's niece Samantha Allen, a Florida resident.
For the first few years, family members and their friends made the pajama donations. But interest grew through word of mouth and social media.
"Last year, I called my sisters and my niece and said, 'I'm making this thing a thing,' " Allen says.
"I expected we would get 50 pairs of pajamas. Instead, we got 500."
A friendly, well-spoken young woman who earned a master's degree in social work from Rutgers-Camden, Allen is a therapist with New Jersey Mentor in Mount Laurel. The agency provides in-home counseling and other services for clients in the state's foster care system.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20151029_A_personal_charity...