Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, June 2, 2019

Family Volunteers Can Help Children in Transition Celebrate Their Birthdays!

Volunteer Opportunity with Birthday Wishes
Because Every Kid Has a Birthday!

Volunteering together with your children teaches positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, while opening up channels of communication. Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters are able to celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways that families can help to support the organization’s efforts…

The celebration of birthdays is an important childhood activity. Birthday parties honor a child, and acknowledge the growth that has taken place during the past year. Children, to whom the length of a year feels much longer than it does to an adult, look forward to their birthdays with excitement and can hardly wait to have a new number to represent themselves. Even older children who have lost some of the excitement of early childhood look forward to birthdays – a birthday means a special day when you’re the center of everyone’s positive attention.

Imagine, though, that you’re a small child and your birthday passes without celebration or perhaps even without mention. Imagine that after spending the whole year sharing cupcakes at school for friends’ special day or getting invitations to the parties of others, your own much anticipated day brings nothing special. Children whose families are experiencing homelessness often have this experience. Families whose lives lack stability and financial resources are forced to make sacrifices, and non-essentials like birthday parties are no longer a priority when these families reside in a shelter.  Thanks to Birthday Wishes, there are several ways families can help children in transition celebrate their birthdays…

Community Service: Horizons for Homeless Children

Volunteer Training for Teens with Horizons for Homeless Children

Horizons for Homeless ChildrenDid you know that one in every fifty children in the United States lives without a permanent home?  Horizons for Homeless Children helps children living in shelters across Western Massachusetts by providing play spaces in shelters (places often not child-friendly and devoid of home-like aspects) and offering volunteers to spend time with kids, playing, reading, etc., in the play areas.

Due to the unpredictable nature of life in shelters, the organization asks that volunteers be over the age of 18, or younger teens between 16-18yo to be accompanied by a parent/adult.  However, community members of all ages are invited to attend a volunteer training, which will take place in Springfield, MA from 6-8:30pm on June 5th and 6th, 2012.

For those interested in volunteering, the training will provide the necessary information for beginning work in a shelter.  For those not yet old enough to volunteer, the training offers a unique opportunity to learn about the reality of homelessness in local communities, early childhood development and the emotional and educational needs of young children, and skills for playing with kids.  Information learned at the training can help to put homelessness (and issues causing and/or surrounding it) into perspective for families, and can help attendees understand how such issues affect their community.  Those interested in volunteering are asked to make a commitment of at least two hours per week.  To register for the training or for more information, call 413-532-0467 or e-mail


Horizons for Homeless Children is a non-profit agency dedicated to providing programs and services for homeless children in MA. The West Region office installs kid friendly playspaces inside of homeless shelters throughout Western MA, including the Berkshires, Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, and Springfield. They actively recruit and train volunteers from the community to go into the Playspaces to play with the homeless children.

Great interview on WGBY’s Connecting Point:

Connecting Point writes, “Joanna Carrington, Playspace Programs West Regional Director at Horizons for Homeless Children; Nicole Lussier, Program Director for “Open Pantry” Teen Living Program in Springfield; and Playspace Activity Leader Denise Donnelly discuss the efforts to assist homeless kids through creation of playspaces at shelters –so homeless kids still get a chance to be kids despite the difficult circumstances they and their families are facing.”

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