Brighten a Child’s Birthday with Volunteers of America!

Celebrating birthdays is a normal, happy part of childhood. But for children who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, a birthday party isn’t guaranteed.

That’s why Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY) started Brightening Birthdays™, a program that plans and celebrates the birthdays of children living in its seven homeless and domestic violence shelters. Each month, all the children whose birthdays fall within that month are invited to a party where they receive three beautifully wrapped gifts and goody bags to give out to their siblings. The children enjoy fun games, sometimes have their faces painted, and always get the chance to blow out candles on a cake or cupcakes. Without these parties, their birthdays would often go unnoticed or uncelebrated.

With several celebrations to plan each month, VOA-GNY sometimes relies on staff at its residences to throw the parties. This is where individual and corporate volunteers often step in to help assemble Birthday-in-a-Box packages that include gifts for each child, goody bags, decorations, a craft project, party hats, and games. VOA-GNY counts on volunteers to wrap the gifts, make cards, assemble the boxes, and sometimes purchase gifts and party supplies.

VOA-GNY is always looking to give the children items that are both practical and fun. So, in addition to toys we include an article of clothing or a wallet for the teenagers. Teens tend to be harder to shop for as they get older, so gift cards to popular stores like Game Stop or Sephora are always needed. Currently, VOA-GNY could also use donations of gifts for infants.

One recent volunteer from a corporate group likened the experience of packing Birthday-in-a-Box kits to a sewing bee, where everyone sits around a table, working on a common project as they catch up with people they know or make connections with new acquaintances.

Most importantly, it’s a chance to give back to the larger community, and make the children living in our shelters feel special on their birthday, just like any other child would.

If you’re interested in getting involved with or donating product to Brightening Birthdays™, please contact Andrew Zibellor visit their website for opportunities to volunteer with your company or community.