A chorus of “Happy Birthday” flooded the room. Parents clapped along while their little ones eyed the birthday doughnuts in front of them. These parents didn’t have to worry about the stress of planning a birthday party. They had the help of an organization doing it for them.
The Birthday Party Project delivered a birthday extravaganza to the children of clients of People Serving People, a downtown Minneapolis shelter, on Friday. Each month, the nonprofit gives homeless children a celebration to remember.
The Texas nonprofit has hosted more than 1,350 birthday parties for children in homeless and transitional shelters across the U.S. since launching in 2012. The service brought its first party to the Minneapolis shelter in February.
The Birthday Party Project is just one nonprofit helping Minnesota’s more than 3,500 homeless children mark their birthdays. Two nonprofits based in Eagan donate birthday gifts to shelters. Cheerful Givers drops off birthday gift bags to food shelves and shelters for parents to give to their children on their birthdays. Simon Says Give hosts parties and donates birthday boxes filled with cake mix and gifts.
Lara Gaither, executive director for the Birthday Party Project, said while every child does not have a home, they all have birthdays.
“There is a really deep need for children in shelters to be celebrated,” she said.
Each month, People Serving People invites children with birthdays that month to a bash dedicated to them. Birthday boys and girls come together to blow out their candles, lick the icing off their Hans’ Bakery doughnuts and let loose.
People Serving People houses about 350 people a night, about 58 percent of them children, said Gwen Campbell, development director.
“What child doesn’t want to feel like they are the center of abir celebration?” Campbell said. “It’s an opportunity to do something that most children in stable housing have an opportunity to do.”
Volunteers transformed the community room into a Thanksgiving scene, putting up streamers and turkey nameplates. The helpers cheered as the 12 birthday stars arrived. Kids played turkey bingo, ran back and forth for a candy corn relay and decorated a paper plate with their Thanksgiving Day blessings before “Happy Birthday” rang through the room.
Beverly Anderson, 37, came to People Serving People in September with her three children. They got more excited for the party as her son Kabary turned 8 in November.
“They’ve been waiting for two months,” she said. “I’m very grateful.”