My daughter Lindsey just celebrated her 8th birthday on May 31st, and it was truly one we’ll never forget. I’ll tell you why. Way back in January, after coming home from work one day, Lindsey started to tell me what she wanted to do for her birthday. I responded with the typical ‘yes, of course,’ knowing that we had many months to decide.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the invitation that she’d already written in pencil in her notebook…
Please come to Lindsey’s birthday party. We are going to help the homeless. We will drive around to look for people that need help. We will give them food, water, and money to use wisely. Don’t worry about bringing money – I am saving up my allowance for that. If you want to bring some water or food, that is great.
Lindsey completely melted my heart with her birthday idea.
My next thought was, ‘how can I find an activity to support what she wants to do in a way that is practical and safe?’ Talking with friends, family and co-workers, we discussed ideas including volunteering at a food pantry or serving meals to the homeless. Her age however was our biggest stumbling block. Even with parental permission and supervision, we found there’s typically an age requirement to volunteer.
Thank goodness I contacted the Phoenix Rescue Mission. While speaking to one of their volunteer coordinators, I explained what my daughter wanted to do and what her age was, and we both came to the conclusion of putting together Hope Totes!
Fast forward to May, and Lindsey’s birthday was just weeks away. I downloaded the Hope Totes flyer from the Mission’s website, and included it in the birthday invitations, along with a note to the parents about what we were doing and why.
Then the collection of items for the Hope Totes began! Through shopping and donations from family and friends, we started growing a huge stockpile of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, shower gels, deodorants, shaving supplies, and more. The generosity we saw was overwhelming.
On the last day of school, Lindsey invited 3 friends over, and we spread out the Hope Tote supplies all over our living room. The girls really had fun sorting out the items into piles. Piles of shampoo, piles of conditioner, piles of soap and body wash, piles of deodorant, piles of sunscreen, piles of chapstick, piles of granola bars and more. They then passed around a Ziploc bag, and each girl added one item to the bag, and finally put in a special note and sealed it up. Once all of the bags were filled, we packed the Hope Totes into a box in the car along with some cases of bottled water, and we hit the road!
At the Mission warehouse, we were greeted so warmly. The warehouse coordinator, Wes, asked us if we were bringing him some Hope Totes, and when we said ‘yes,’ he asked whose idea it was. Lindsey shyly put her head down and pointed to herself. Amazed, Wes told her what an awesome thing she was doing and how most adults don’t even bring him supplies like this! He also said that she was helping a lot of people who would really appreciate it. We then saw the Hope Coach van that delivers the Hope Totes to the homeless on the streets! We took a photo in front of the Hope Coach, and Lindsey and her friends were beaming. What an incredible experience for Lindsey and her friends to help others! We will never forget this special birthday!