The Birthday Mitzvah Day Project – When A Person Follows Their Dreams

Hello, Jasmaine Russo here. First time blogger, long time reader. Today I had the honor and privilege to bring the Birthday Project to Mitzvah Day 2016. So what is it all about? Where did it come from? Well, I’m glad you asked. My daughter, Jordan, needed an idea for her Mitzvah project. While searching the web, we came across an organization called Family to Family. . They had an intriguing idea about, giving underprivileged children a birthday celebration in a bag. It would include cake mix, frosting, candles, book, and an age appropriate toy.
Many of us celebrate our children’s birthdays without a second thought. I always plan our vacations around our girls’ birthdays, to make them especially memorable. I grew up in a single parent household, and birthday celebrations were not always a possibility. Times were tough. I remember my 7th birthday when my mom walked to a 7-11 and bought me a doll. I can’t imagine how she found the extra money but she did.
Here it is 30 years later and still remember, how happy I was to have something on my special day. I explained all of this to Jordan and how we could give other children the same excitement. Jordy set a goal of 5 bags per month from October 2015 until October 2016. We contacted Family- to- Family and they linked us with the Boys and Girls Club of Orange County. It was very exciting expanding this project to include our Jewish Community. We had a goal of fifty bags and we pulled it off!!! I asked the director of Boys and Girls Club for a list of kids with age, birthdate, and interests. Then I assigned each child a number, that way people could adopt or donate money towards the cost of a child’s bag. Nancy, the admin, for the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County linked me with The United Way of Dutchess County, and they donated the books. Vassar Temple gave Tzedakah money, and the Jordy’s B’nai Mitzvah classmates adopted bags. Marian Schwartz bought birthday bags that smaller kids could decorate. We set out boxes in Temple Beth El, Vassar Temple, and Beacon Hebrew Alliance to collect cake, mix, frosting candles, etc. Jordy and I took all the donated monies, bought scrip, and purchased the toys based on the children’s interest.
When we arrived at Temple Beth El, I did not have any idea how this was going to unfold. Fortunately, our community pulled it together. So many donations, in addition to what we had, started piling on the tables. Within minutes we had a makeshift assembly line.

Station 1 was decorating committee, Kids and their parents decorated bags with drawings and sweet birthday messages.
Station 2 was the sorting. Any new items coming into the room, were dispatched to the proper areas.
Station 3 was the cake mix station. This is where the cake mix, frosting, and candles were bundled.
Station 4 was where the toys and books were put together and placed in numerical order.
Station 5 was the command hub. Here is where the bags were assembled. Kids would drop off their artistic creations, the cake mix bundle would be added in, then the gift would double checked against our spreadsheet. Volunteers wanted to make sure each gift was age appropriate and matched the child’s interests.
Station 6 was the last check off. Here birthday goodies would be added such as bubbles, candy, napkins, plates, and/ or cups.
I still cannot believe we pulled it off. All the volunteers went above and beyond to make sure each bag was given extra TLC. A few times I got a little teary eyed watching my community at work. This project embodies the spirit of Mitzvah Day. We banded to together to give these children, a chance to do something many of us take for granted. Celebrating the day, a child came to be and the simple joy in life of being a child.
Thank you everyone for all you help and support. I know I could not have done ANY of this without the volunteers. I hope that we will be able to do this again next year.


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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on This is What a Rabbi Looks Like and commented:

    Proud of Jasmaine, Jordan, Vassar Temple, and Dutchess County Jewish Federation for pulling this off!


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