CFA’s Birthday in a Bag Campaign Makes a Difference
For children growing up in foster care, birthdays can be a sorrowful reminder of the family they are not celebrating with. Often times, these children travel from home to home with very little possessions. The Children’s Foundation of America strives to celebrate their precious lives and support the families who care for them by providing hundreds of birthday kits each year through our Birthday in a Bag campaign.
“Birthday in a Bag is a great way for the community to make a positive impact in a foster youths’ life. Our volunteers look forward to completing each youth’s birthday wish and make them feel special on their birthday,” says Volunteer Coordinator, Briana Calderon. Every month, Briana connects with social workers to gather children’s birthday wishes for the following month. She and her team of volunteers pack gift bags filled with a cake mix, frosting, card, gift, and decorations to help make the youths’ birthday spectacular.
After receiving their birthday gift, a youth responded, “I felt so happy to receive my sweatpants, I have a jacket that goes with them, and it was nice to have a complete matching sweat suit.” When asked how often they received a birthday gift, a youth responded, “Sometimes I celebrate with my family. I’d like to thank those who thought of me for my gift and making my 18th birthday special.”
71% of foster youth reported hardly ever receiving gifts on their birthday. Through our monthly Birthday in a Bag, CFA hopes to reduce that percentage.
How You Can Help
Stock Our Pantry: Birthday in a Bag items can be dropped off at our warehouse Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1326 W. 9th St. Upland, CA 91786. CFA is collecting the following birthday items year-round:
- Large party bags
- Cake mix
- Birthday decorations
- Party plates
Volunteer: If you’re interested in volunteering to compile birthday bags or create birthday cards for kids, please contact email@example.com or 909.426.0773 ext. 236.
Donate: As an alternative, a $20 donation made through our website can also provide a complete Birthday in a Bag for a foster youth. Please consider making a monthly donation to help provide birthdays for foster youth throughout the year!
Isabel Millward-Pena, Communications Specialist
Isabel contributes content for our social media, blog, newsletters and promotional materials. She recently earned a bachelor’s degree in English from California State University San Bernardino and is currently working on her master’s degree. Isabel began working with our team as an intern and, luckily for us, never left. Prior to her work at CFA, she was a substitute instructional aid and a supervisor at Starbucks. She has also volunteered as an aid at local elementary schools and notably achieved “Partner of the Quarter” at Starbucks in 2017.
CFA Relaunches Birthday in a Bag Campaign
In January, the Children’s Foundation of America relaunched our Birthday in a Bag campaign to make birthdays extra special for foster youth.
Birthday in a Bag started out as a project by a few volunteers to provide birthday bags to our partner organization Trinity Youth Services. The bags were distributed to foster youth at Trinity’s location in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. With so many volunteers and donors participating in Birthday in a Bag, it has been expanded to an ongoing campaign supporting five of the foster care and residential sites at Trinity Youth Services, across San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.
Each month, volunteers arrive at our Upland warehouse to assemble the bags for the following month’s birthdays. We recently recruited Matthew Chavez to be our Birthday in a Bag Volunteer Captain, after having volunteered for the activity every month since January.
“I love gift giving,” Matthew said. “It’s a fun experience to pick a gift and create a bag for the kids.”
Volunteers are provided a list of foster youth, their ages and their interests to pull items from our inventory of donated goodies. Volunteers fill birthday bags with cake mix, frosting, decorations, handmade card and a gift. Since the campaign began in January, 13 volunteers have helped assemble birthday bags for 40 foster youth ranging from infants to teenagers.
How You Can Help
The Foundation is collecting birthday items all year round including:
- Large party bags
- Cake mix
- Birthday decorations
Birthday in a Bag items can be dropped off at our warehouse Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1326 W. 9th St. Upland, CA 91786. As an alternative, a $20 donation made through our website can also provide a complete Birthday in a Bag for a foster youth. Please consider making a monthly donation to help provide birthdays for foster youth throughout the year!
Marie Maghuyop, Communications & Volunteer Relations Specialist
Marie creates content for social media, writes blogs and coordinates volunteer opportunities and events. She enjoys connecting with volunteers of diverse backgrounds and getting to know their unique stories. She has earned two associate’s degrees from San Bernardino Valley College and a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Fullerton. In her free time, Marie loves going to Disneyland, writing, playing ukulele and board games, and dancing.
Birthday in a Bag
The Children’s Foundation of America strives to provide an opportunity for every person to help children heal, learn and thrive. That is why we were so excited to hear from Michelle Panos, who learned about Birthday in a Bag, and made it a reality for foster youth.
Michelle got the idea after visiting the Family-To-Family website, a nonprofit focused on hunger and poverty relief for families. She decided to take on the project in her own way to support children in foster care.
Being a school teacher, she sees the impact of coming from a lower income situation can make. Because of this, she was looking for an organization to get involved with that supports children in need.
“When I found out that the Children’s Foundation of America works with foster children, I was ecstatic,” she said. “I have had several children that were in foster care in my classes over the last few years so I thought that this was perfect.”
The Birthday in a Bag donation will be given to resource parents at Michelle’s local foster care office: Trinity Youth Services, Rancho Cucamonga. The donation comes at the perfect time when we are showing our appreciation for local foster parents during National Foster Care Month. Every little thing helps a resource family do everything possible to help a child cope from trauma experienced before entering foster care. We celebrate foster parents for opening their heart and their home to care for a child in need and we are so grateful for people like Michelle who want to help make a foster parent’s role a little easier.
What’s in the Bag?
Each bag includes birthday party supplies such as a poster, streamers, balloons, candles, cake mix, frosting, a present and a book! Michelle is an elementary school teacher and we are so glad she included a book for each child to read.
How to Help
There are many ways to help children in need! Some donate time by volunteering, some donate funds for scholarships or yearbooks and some have the desire to find a unique way that suits them best. All these efforts help make a difference in the lives of children who need to be shown a little compassion.
Carrie Palmer, Development Specialist
Carrie oversees the day-to-day operations and staffing of the Foundation. Among her many tasks, she is responsible for seeking out and applying to grants for the Foundation as well as overseeing fundraising events and donations. Above all, Carrie’s focus is to identify and access resources in order to help children heal, learn and thrive. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of San Diego in 2001 and a master’s degree in public administration at Cal Poly Pomona in 2005. Carrie enjoys spending much of her time with her family and, when given the opportunity, jumps at the chance to travel the world with her mother and daughter.