Many children are required to do a Mitzvah Project in conjunction with their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, but we are finding that more and more children who do not have this requirement at their Synagogue, are still choosing to create a project.
When we learned about the organization Birthday Wishes, we knew our Mitzvah Market readers would want to know more and that their children might consider this organization for their own Mitzvah Projects.
The mission of Birthday Wishes is simple: To bring birthday parties to homeless children. Birthday Wishes recognizes the importance of a birthday in a child’s life and believes that the gift of a birthday celebration provides normalcy, joy and hope in these children’s otherwise unsettled lives.
There are shelters that benefit from Birthday Wishes all over the country, (see list here) but the Long Island chapter was founded by Jamie Rapfogel and her Mom, Norma Ehrlich about 1 year ago.
Jamie Rapfogel and Norma Ehrlich
“I was looking for something to do with my kids,” Jamie says about her children, Jessica, Nicole and Steven. “They had already started their own organization called, “Let’s Make a Difference,” when they were in Elementary school and were raising money to donate to charities.”
Jamie read about Birthday Wishes, a Massachusetts based non-profit that was founded in 2002 by three mothers who were looking for volunteer work they could do with their children. Jamie felt this was a perfect way to help the community while spending quality time with her kids.
Jamie and her children began bringing birthday parties to a CHI shelter in Hempstead, New York, and because of their success, have added another location in Huntington Station, New York. Twice a month, Jamie and her children deliver presents, balloons, goody bags, themed decorations and a birthday cake.
A Birthday Box contains all of the birthday trimmings and presents ready for the child’s mother or case manager to put on the party
At the Birthday celebrations, they play party games and make crafts giving every child the opportunity to participate. Jamie speaks to the mother or case manager prior to the party about what presents the birthday child wants. “Some of the children have never had a birthday party or celebrated their birthday even once in their lives,” she explains.
A dancing game being played at a birthday party
Jamie said that her own children have developed friendships with some of the children. “The children at the shelter wait by the door for my kids. It changes your vision of homelessness.”
Kid volunteers getting to know the birthday child
Here’s how you can help and incorporate Birthday Wishes into your child’s Mitzvah Project. Visit their Website and click on party schedule and wishlist to see what is needed for a birthday celebration. You can help by volunteering or donating.
Jamie is seeking volunteers and donations to help her continue to expand her reach to more shelters. Right now, she pays for almost everything out of her own pocket, does the shopping and bakes most of the cakes herself.
For more information, visit their Website.
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Jamie and her family on the B’not Mitzvah of her twin girls this weekend!