CHARITY DONATES BIRTHDAY PARTIES
By Evan Berkowitz | Photography The Lunch Box Studio
When one thinks about childhood, birthday parties are often remembered as special moments in which our parents made a point of treating us well and making the day special and unique.
But for many underprivileged people for whom day to day survival is a struggle, making a lavish party for your child is not a realistic possibility for financial reasons.
It was Laura Waich’s realization of this that led her to create her wonderful charity: The Birthday Club. In association with the Jewish Community Service Kosher Food Bank, the Birthday Club provides free cake, food and party supplies to needy Jewish families in our area.
“The idea came when my son turned two years old,’ said Waich. She said her boy was obsessed with the famous lovable cartoon character Winnie the Pooh. So for his birthday party an actor in a Winnie the Pooh outfit was asked to come to the event. ”My son was so thrilled he could not believe it! He did not let go of the real Winnie the Pooh all day. That night I went to bed feeling so happy and proud that I had been able to do this for my son.”
A couple of months earlier a friend of hers had given her a tour of the JCS Kosher Food Bank and she had been saddened to realize how many people in our community were lacking the means to afford even the most basic of necessities, and also how impossible it was for them to fund a child’s birthday celebration like she had enjoyed with her son. “I thought maybe we could help these parents feel a little bit of what I felt that day,“ she said. So in 2012 she contacted Soiby Seidner who got in touch with Lori Tabachnikoff who then talked to Bonnie Schwartzbaum, director of the JCS Kosher Food Bank, and created this wonderful family oriented charity. “Nothing makes our food bank families happier than the birthday club! It’s very difficult for a parent who cannot make a birthday party for their child. For parents on a limited budget, buying milk and bread has to take precedence over buying birthday candles. Laura Waich and her volunteers have changed the lives of these families. The Birthday Club ensures that each and every child receives a beautiful celebration.” Said Schwartzbaum about the Birthday Club.
“At first, funding was through friends and family,” explained Waich, but as the Birthday Club grew, more substantial funds were needed, so the resourceful young woman created a company called “A Little Something.”
“Through ‘A Little Something’ we sell kosher gourmet gifts as well as party favors for birthdays and all profits go to the Birthday Club,” she said. You can learn more about this on instagram @givealittlesomething.
The Birthday Club now has 64 volunteers and organized more than 400 parties and about 160 parties in 2016. Some of them were Bar Mitzvhas and Bat Mitzvhas and 80th, 90th and even 95th birthday parties! Besides cake, food and themed decorations, the Birthday Club will sometimes provide a gift for the child if it is a milestone year for them.
For different ages or tastes they will provide money for outings to movie theaters or spas, like for example for mother-daughter manicures, or for teenage boys a trip to a sports stadium to see a ballgame.
The parties are provided for children whose families are registered at the JCS Kosher Food Bank and meet their qualifications for assistance. Forms to get assistance from the Birthday Club can be filled out at the Food Bank through Marie Fernandez who is a key person for the organization. The Birthday Club is run completely anonymously. The volunteers delivering the birthday supplies to the Food Bank and the mom who is picking them up for her child’s party never cross paths. For the most part, the children do not know where the party is coming from. Waich said charitable minded local businesses make the Birthday Club possible. The Learning Express–Aventura, a toy store offers generous discounts to them, local bakeries of high quality and originality such as Gallery of Cakes who donate all the birthday cakes, and Kokoa Desserts, Ktering Desserts and Praline Pastries which offer discounts on special requests. Several other services offer discounts or provide services for free such as Alpha Graphics of Fort Lauderdale. “We could absolutely not do this without all their help,” said Waich.