The Party Project

A Peacemaking Project by Leah H.

What is the injustice we are solving?

The issue that I am addressing is the lack of means for low-income/homeless families to have the items needed to celebrate birthdays. SNAP (food stamps) does not cover most items needed for a birthday party and a family with limited income most likely feels other expenses such as electric bills, medication etc. are more important to spend on. I feel that every child’s birthday should be celebrated regardless of financial situation, and have therefore created the Party Project. The Party Project helps create birthday kits for low-income/homeless families to utilize for parties. These kits include all the items needed for a birthday party for 8-10 people, including decorations, cake, candles, birthday cards, and special treats. I have partnered with six local social service agencies in my area to help distribute the birthday kits to their clientele as needed.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of Lack of resources for homeless and low-income youth to celebrate their birthdays.
we will address The inequality of homeless and low-income families who are not able to utilize SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) to buy most items necessary to have a birthday party.
by The Party Project will provide birthday kits with all the supplies necessary to host a birthday party for 8-10 people and will be available for distribution from the six agencies that I have partnered with.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • The Party Project Goal is to provide birthday kits to homeless and low-income youth between the ages of 1-18 years of age in the Lane County area.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Working with our partnering agencies, along with other community members such as Girl Scouts, church youth groups. We will host birthday kit supply collections and box building events to get more community members involved.

How will you show courage?

I will show courage by meeting with community representatives to address this need, and by making the public aware by making presentations within my community.

How will you collaborate with others?

I have partnered with six local community service agencies and will continue to work with them as well as Girl Scouts, church youth groups, school groups and other community organizations.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

I know that I am moving in the right direction as I have the support of my Girl Scout council as well as adult members of my community who have provided me with guidance.

Key Steps

  • I will continue to create birthday kits, each kit costs between $20-$25.00 to create.
  • I will continue to attract community support for the project and work towards developing it into a non-profit of its own.

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

By learning about the facilities we were working with, we learned small acts of kindness such as supplying a birthday kit to a family in need was important, but not a necessity like food and shelter. By supplying birthday kits, we learned these acts of kindness allow for the clientele to feel more cared for by society, and that their birthdays are just as important as anyone else's.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

My community changed as a result of the Party Project by becoming more aware of the needs of low-income & homeless youth in our community and of the services that are and are not available to them. I was featured twice on our local news KEZI to discuss the Party Project, who benefits from it and the impact it has. Many people in my community were not aware that youth did not have access to items needed to have a birthday party as it was just something that they'd never thought about. By spreading awareness though the local news, my Facebook page for the Party Project and social media, I feel that I have helped to change the perception of what families need and that all children deserve the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays.

How many people were impacted by your project?

740

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

Currently we have distributed over 148 birthday kits, we have an additional 80 kits ready to deliver, 60 of which have already been scheduled. I feel that more than 148 people have been impacted by the project because each birthday kit contains supplies for a party of 8-10 people, so if everyone who received a kit, had only 5 people at their party, then the Party Project had a direct impact on 740 people.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

When we were discovering which programs should be involved with The Party Project, we toured facilities such as Women's Space, Looking Glass, The Eugene Mission, and Hosea Youth to have a better understanding of what services they offer and who their clientele is.

What did your team learn?

We learned that is it possible to put together 100's of birthday kits together for different facilities in our community with the help of community organizations, grants, and our team. We reached well over our initial goal of the amount of birthday kits we planned on distributing and still continue to grow. We learned that reaching out to our community is one of the best ways to agin continued support of our project.

What challenges did your team overcome?

It was difficult for us to find a way to continue this project after I left for college but we ended up reaching out to community members outside our usual circle of contacts. We contacted First United Methodist Church's youth group who were more than happy to take on our project. I was also able to attain mini grants through Peace First and YSA to help financially support the project.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

Yes I have involved others in carrying out and expanding the Party Project. Since completing my Girl Scout Gold Award, I have partnered with the youth group at First United Methodist Church in Eugene (FUMC) who are helping me to carryon the Party Project. They have actually contacted an additional social service agency in Eugene to try to provide birthday party kits to their youth clientele. Since FUMC joined me in the Party Project, they have held a box building night, helped me with my box building night and will be holding another box building this coming July.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Don't be afraid to reach out to members of your community outside of your circle to ensure getting as much support possible. My usual circle includes members of my community involved with Girl Scouts as well. But I ended up reaching out to a United Methodist Church in Eugene which was one of the best decisions I made on this project, as they continue to support my project while I am away.

Our Updates:

I made the DollarTree cashier cry

Leah H. 16 January 2018 12:45 This happened in August when I made a huge shopping trip because I had received funding from Oregon Community Credit Union and Northwest Community Credit Union which enabled me to buy $500 of party supplies and make lots more birthday kits!

I felt good & bad, because I made the cashier at the Dollar Tree cry that day... and it wasn't because she had to ring up such a large amount of stuff!!! When she saw all of the party supplies I was buying (which was several shopping carts), she asked if it was for one big party or if I was throwing lots of parties. So I explained the Party Project to her, and she said when she first moved to Eugene she stayed at the Eugene Mission, so she knows how much it means to the kids who receive a birthday box and that she was just really happy to see something being done for the kids! And then she came over and gave me a huge hug and told me I had to leave as I was going to make her cry again!!! It was so sweet!!! :)

AIA-The Right to Party

Leah H. 26 January 2018 22:06 The Arab American Institute did a nice follow-up on the Party Project on their blog as I was a recipient of the Helen Abbott Community Service Award last year. 

 

http://www.aaiusa.org/the_right_to_party_the_legacy_of_one_aaif_scholarship

How many birthday kits the Party Project has made

Leah H. 7 February 2018 18:59 As of today (February 7, 2018) the Party Project has made 228 birthday party kits, of which 148 have been distributed to low-income and homeless youth through the social service agencies that we have partnered with.  We have an additional 60 birthday party boxes scheduled to be delivered to our partner agencies between now and April, which will leave us with 20 party boxes remaining in stock.  We plan to hold an additional box building party in April so restock the supply.  

Getting my Gold Award

Leah H. 7 February 2018 19:06 I earned my Gold Award this past August, but I didn't actually receive it until I was home for Winter break.  For those of you who don't know what a Gold Award is, it is the highest Award a Girl Scout an earn, and only about 5% of Girl Scouts earn them.  The Party Project was my Gold Award project and I put in close over 150 volunteer hours, plus all the hours my team put in with me.  So this is me getting pinned with my Gold Award by my Girl Scout mentor Joni.

Box Building Day

Leah H. 7 February 2018 19:52 On January 18 we had a box building day for the Party Project.  Because we had received the Peace First mini-grant of $250 and also a YSA/Disney Summer of Service grant for $500 we were able to purchase supplies to complete 44 additional birthday boxes!  I was assisted in the box build by graduated members (like me) of my Girl Scout troop, as well as my mom and my Girl Scout mentor Joni.  Girl Scouts from troop 20445 and their leaders also came to help as well as Adam the youth pastor and a few members of the FUMC youth group.

Everyone was really helpful as we wrapped the 44+ boxes, we didn't really know how many to wrap so we just kept wrapping!!!  Then we filled up all the boxes and found that we had left items out and had to go back and peak in each box to make sure they all had the needed supplies.  My whole team was really patient and so very helpful!!!  Thank you guys!!!

So overall we have made 228 birthday party kits, and 148 of these have been distributed by our partnering agencies (St. Vincent de Paul's, Womenspace, Hosea Youth, Shelter Care, The Eugene Mission and Looking Glass).  The remaining kits will be distributed between now and the next box build which is planned for April.  

 

 

KEZI Coverage of the YSA/Disney grant

Leah H. 14 February 2018 19:24 Prior to receiving the Peace First grant, I attained a YSA/Disney Summer of Service grant to help create more birthday kits for the Party Project.  This is an update KEZI news did on the YSA/Disney grant.

YSA Kindness Rising Grant

Leah H. 4 April 2018 12:01 I just received notification that the Party Project is one of 10 recipients for the YSA Kindness Rising Grant.  This is a $250 grant that will help to support our next box building event later this month!  Thank you to Hasbro & YSA for continuing to support the Party Project!

Next Box Build

Leah H. 9 April 2018 13:41 Our next box build is scheduled for Sunday, April 29th.  I am hoping that the YSA Kindness Rising Grant is received prior to that so that we have some additional funds to buy party supplies with!  I will attach photos of the shopping trip & box build after they take place.  Thank you Peace First for your continued support of the Party Project!

Inside Out Day at FUMC (Birthday Box Building)

Leah H. 30 April 2018 22:15 The church whose youth group is helping to continue the Party Project hosted an Inside Out Day yesterday (its a day that the congregation spends doing various community service projects).  So the Party Project was one of the projects that was hosted.  We were able to complete 35 additional birthday boxes for the Party Project, 17 of which will be delivered to two of our partner agencies this week.  The YSA Kindness Rising Grant and supplies that were donated were donated allowed us to create these additional birthday boxes.  We really appreciate all the continued support that the Party Project has received!

Tmobile Changemaker Challenge

Leah H. 4 June 2018 0:22 I joined the T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge and would really love to share my project with a wider audience.  I think that you may have to join the Changemakers to make comments (it's really easy to join) and there are so many great projects to check out besides mine!!!  Please check us out, give us an evaluation, etc.  Thanks  :)  

https://network.changemakers.com/challenge/tmochangemakerchallenge/entry/the-party-project

Comments:

Leah H.
6 June 2018 18:12

Thanks Kelsey,
I have spoken to several of the agencies that I worked with regarding a survey and the general consensus was that it might deter people from wanting to get the boxes... Families who utilize social services are already overburden with so much paperwork and even if its anonymous, asking them to fill out something else, gets rid of our "no strings attached" approach. I really wanted to make this as hassle free as possible for the youth & families that receive them and would love to come up with some other way to show the impact.  

Kelsey T.
6 June 2018 18:04

Hi Leah!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

It was great to read your reflection and hear more about your impact! You're doing a great job tracking how many kits you are producing to help measure your impact and I am excited about all the examples you shared about ways of spreading awareness! It is great to hear that your work is impacting the broader community in addition to the individuals who receive the kits -- and it sounds like it is helping folks to think more deeply the needs of people in their community with fewer resources. Again, I so appreciate the compassion in your project and that you are working so closely with the agencies who distribute the kits to ensure that this is as helpful as possible to the recipients.

As you enter the next stage, a couple things to think about: is there a way to get more information through the organizations you are working with about the impact? For example, you might be able to get families to fill out anonymous surveys, etc -- this would enable you to better articulate how meaningful this is to families which will help you gain support (and possibly additional funding).

As always, I'd encourage you to continue the process of learning! Now is a great time to look back at the Understand tools and consider whether you've learned anything new through your conversations with those organizations. Are there additional ways that the community could support these folks, too?

So excited to hear how this work continues to grow! Excited to continue to support you -- let me know how we can help!

Kelsey  

Kelsey T.
8 February 2018 14:46

Hi Leah! Thanks for your very thoughtful consideration of my questions and response. I can tell you and you are really thinking this through and reflecting on your project and its impact! It is great that you are getting feedback from social service agencies about how the birthday kits are relieving stress on families. I definitely understand that you want to keep this "no strings attached" and that makes sense -- but it sounds like you are able to get information second hand through caseworkers, which is great -- sounds like you are developing some good strategies for tracking your impact. Keep up the great work and definitely reach out if there is something we can do to help.  

Leah H.
7 February 2018 20:33

I have posted some photos in my updates :)  

Leah H.
7 February 2018 20:25

Hi Kelsey, I have thought about the questions that you asked me and I also shared them with staff at the social service agencies that the Party Project partnered with. This is sort of a compilation of our responses:

1-How you can know you are moving in the right direction -- what indicators of success can you think of, beyond support from your community?
-Receiving the kits reduces stress on families who are already struggling. They can focus on finding or keeping their housing. Being homeless or imminently homeless is also incredibly stressful for children. Being able to celebrate a birthday maintains a sense of normalcy that can help.
-Most people think of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse when they hear the words "domestic violence.” What many people do not realize is that abusers also can be economically abusive.
Economic abuse can be any of a number of things such as:
• Controlling the finances Not allowing one's partner to work
• Jeopardizing current employment through harassment
• Jeopardizing future employment by physically abusing a partner the night before an interview or refusing to provide transportation to the interview
• Taking a partner's money without her permission
• Forcing one partner to be the main financial provider
• Denying access to, or knowledge of, financial resources
• Sabotaging their partner’s credit by not making payments
• Destroying property that is in their partner’s name
Due to this financial impact on the survivor and their children, many of them do not have the ability to purchase supplies for birthdays.

2- What can you do to find out how the birthday parties are impacting the families who receive the kits?
-Caseworkers have had several families say how much the birthday kits have been such a wonderful gift and have helped them able to provide more for their children.
-The population that the Party Project is serving by providing the kits are not used to receiving something for free as strings are attached to everything in their world. Following up with measurable outcomes are difficult because of this. When I developed the Party Project, I wanted it to be a no-string attached program, it meant to reduce stress, not add to it.

3- How can you measure the impact on those kids?
-We all feel that its hard to give concrete measures, the case managers have stated that families are very appreciative of the kits and they continue to get requests for birthday boxes from clientele as word of the program spreads.  

RaulPF C.
5 January 2018 9:38

We are excited to support your work and your journey as a peacemaker! Look forward to your updates as you implement your project!  

Leah H.
4 January 2018 21:16

Oh my goodness!!!! Thank you so much for the mini-grant!
I will definitely think about what you said on making others realize how important birthdays are, and how to best go about explaining that! I will also check back in with the agencies I am working with and see if they can help with measuring the impact.  

Kelsey T.
4 January 2018 15:53

Hi Leah! Congratulations -- we have approved your mini-grant application! We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get expert feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:
This is a wonderful project! You've identified a need for low income families that people rarely notice or talk about and have come up with a concrete way to address it. You've done a fabulous job in particular of collaborating with others and demonstrating compassion through your project. I'm also curious to hear more about what you mentioned in the courage question about how you are meeting with community representatives and spreading awareness through your project. Through spreading awareness and advocacy like that, there is potential to address some of the root causes while also impacting individual families in need.

Areas to further strengthen your project:
I would encourage you to think a bit more about how to explain why birthday parties in particular are important for all families to be able to have, regardless of their income. I agree with you and I can tell you understand the importance of birthday parties, but how can you explain that to someone new to the idea or someone who thinks they aren't basic needs? What is it about birthday parties that is so valuable to a young person as they grow up? I also think there is more room to explore how you can know you are moving in the right direction -- what indicators of success can you think of, beyond support from your community? What can you do to find out how the birthday parties are impacting the families who receive the kits? How can you measure the impact on those kids?

Congrats again and thanks for being a peacemaker!
 

Leah H.
31 December 2017 20:09

Hi,
Because of confidentiality restrictions, I cannot post photos of recipients of the boxes. I work with six local agencies here in my community, and they make requests to the Party Project as to the number of birthday kits that they are in need of, and we supply them with those kits.

I have been working with younger Girl Scouts to build boxes as well as a local church youth group who is helping me continue the project now that I have earned my Gold Award.

Ideally I would like to have the Party Project develop into a non-profit of its own, but I really have no idea how to go about that. Currently I am able to process grants and donations through my Girl Scout Council since my troop is still active, but the remaining girls in my troop only have 2 more years left before they also finish high school and age out.  

Fish S.
31 December 2017 19:21

Leah, this is amazing. Your work is so important and necessary -- and I imagine a lot of kids are helpful for your work to create experiences for them that most of us take for granted!

Do you have any photos or stories from recipients of your party packs? Do you distribute the packs, or do you help organize the parties, too?

This project is terrific -- what are your plans for growing or deepening it this spring? And how can we help?  

Leah H.
28 December 2017 15:30

Thank you :)  

RaulPF C.
28 December 2017 15:26

Thanks for sharing more about your project, Leah! Most of our team are away this week but a member of the team will get back to you next week with more details on the next steps to receive your mini-grant! We are looking forward to supporting your project!  

Leah H.
27 December 2017 22:50

This is the link to my project's Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/GirlScoutGoldPartyProject/
Check it out and like it please!  

Leah H.
11 July 2018 20:50

Hi, I guess I can't make any more updates, but I wanted to post one more. I had entered the Party Project into the T-Mobile Changemakers Challenge and received notification that we were selected as one of the top 100 projects. They will now select 25 winners of the challenge from the top 100. You can check out all of the wonderful projects that have been selected at https://network.changemakers.com/challenge/tmochangemakerchallenge/changemaker100  

Amy T.
1 August 2018 14:13

Hi Leah!

Amy here--I'm a member of the Peace First team, and I wanted to let you know that I really like how your project serves low-income families that may not have the financial needs to afford something valuable like birthday supplies for their kids. As I commented before on your page, it is an overlooked issue, but I'm extremely happy to hear how you are still continuing on with this mission by taking advantage of other non-Peace First grants! I hope that you'll submit an application to tell your story at the first-ever Peace First Summit on 9/16!

Applications are due today, August 1--you should have more information in your email inbox. Here's the application link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6X9fTrSTC6PoXjLpVUtNlJgZHbd5QdB6-hgxlC-d7DBlK_g/viewform Please let me know if you have any questions--I hope you'll apply!

Warmly,
Amy