SKOWHEGAN — Warm pajamas and a good book.

That’s what’s in store for some area children this winter, all wrapped and ready for Christmas.

The gifts come courtesy of the Sweet Dreams Project, initiated at Skowhegan Area Middle School by mathematics teacher Deb Tanner, the Somerset County 2015 Teacher of the Year.

The targets: poverty and literacy.

“Once named the teacher of the year, I wanted to do something to make a difference in my community,” Tanner said. “My goal was to start a program that would address both of those issues — poverty and literacy — here (at School Administrative District 54) where there is much poverty. It has taken me some time, but I have initiated a project that will make a difference for many children in the community.”

Tanner said many children in her district do not have pajamas to wear to bed.

“I know of children going to bed in their school clothes, no clothes or their coat and ski pants because the home had no heat,” she said. “This is the painful reality in our area. The generational poverty is devastating to many families.”

Tanner said the poverty level in the Skowhegan-based school district stands at over 64 percent, based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

An example of the need in the area, she said, is that every Friday, about 35 students at Skowhegan Area Middle School go home with a food bag through a program called the Back Pack Program, funded through private donations. Students go home with a bag of food to get them through the weekend or winter vacation, she said.

“The need for help is very real in our community,” Tanner said.

She said she reached out for help through Facebook posts, her teaching colleagues at school, family and friends and word of mouth. People have donated financially or with a set of wrapped pajamas and a book, with the gender of the child and size of the pajamas on the tag.

So far, she collected nearly 100 sets of PJs and books. Some of them will go to children at the middle school, others are to be distributed through the Clothing Closet at the Centenary United Methodist Church on the Dr. Mann Road in Skowhegan.

For families wishing for warm pajamas and a book for their children, the hours at the Clothing Closet are 6 to 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month and every Wednesday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.

Donations can be dropped off during school hours at Skowhegan Area Middle School or 9 a.m. until noon Tuesday through Friday through Dec. 21 at the Skowhegan Federated Church,.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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