Robin Zelaya wanted to do more than just write checks to charities without knowing what happened to the money, so she started asking around about nonprofits she should check out. That’s when she discovered that a colleague ran a food shelf out of his house. On a child’s birthday, parents could get a cake mix or, if there was no cake mix, a box of the child’s favorite cereal. Inspired to help, Robin started putting together birthday bags that same week. She took the bags to homeless shelters and food shelves with the requirement that they be given to parents so that they had gifts to give their kids.
In the twenty-six years since Robin founded Cheerful Givers, more than a million birthday bags have been distributed in Minnesota. You can donate $10 to pay for a birthday toy that goes in the bag or follow the directions on the website to create your own bag. You’ll need to contact your local shelter or food shelf to ensure that it’s interested and to coordinate delivery.