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Creating Individual Birthday Memories

Celebrations For Children, Youth In Shelters Are Honored By Volunteers Of Local Nonprofit

Creating fun, memorable birthday experiences for toddlers, children and young adults in homeless and domestic violence shelters is the mission of St. Louis metropolitan-based volunteers spearheaded by "Chief Birthday Officer" Rolanda Finch. 

As founder of It’s Your Birthday, Inc., Rolanda says the group is proud of how individualized they've been able to make each recipient's birthday. "We believe all children should have a happy birthday, no matter their situation. Our goal is to ensure each child, and sometimes also a parent, feels special. Help from communities surely helps that happen."

The group works through St. Louis area school districts, homeless facilities and domestic violence shelters, in addition to similar charitable shelters in Cape Girardeau, Hannibal and Springfield. Rolanda says they assist with children 1 to 22 years old. On average, 15 to 25 birthdays are acknowledged or fulfilled each month. Since being launched in 2014, Rolanda says there have been nearly 1,700 memories created through this nonprofit. 

"Children in shelters are very confused, IYBI helps bring a sense of normalcy during this time in their young lives," she adds. 

In observance of the nonprofit's eighth 'organizational birthday' during September, following are eight ways to assist the group:

  1. Participate in IYBI fundraisers, such as toy drives, or donate new toys for birthday boxes. 

  2. Sponsor a Birthday-in-a-Box ($150 value) for a shelter or mom to provide the birthday memory to her child.

  3. Cover the cost of a mom or shelter to shop for a child’s birthday gift from a curated Amazon Wish List.

  4. Fund gifts for new moms who give birth while in shelters.

  5. Create from-scratch birthday cards and inspirational cards, which is a great way for a group, such as Girl Scouts, to complete a project together. (No personal names, group titles or details should be included by creators.)

  6. Provide $15 fast food gift cards or hygiene products/personal care items for older recipients. 

  7. Volunteer as small group or individual to help organize IYBI office, either administratively or toy/box reasons. 

  8. Sponsor a Birthday Surprise ($50 value) or other specific initiative.

Rolanda says with a bit of training, volunteers also can become "Birthday Heroes," who represent the nonprofit as the primary contact with a designated shelter and who plan birthday options for each child.

"We also are seeking new board members," she adds. "The laughter and smiles we create are priceless."

Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 2222, Florissant, MO  63033; picked up by scheduled volunteers; physically dropped off at the Its Your Birthday office, 2900 Frank Scott Parkway, Suite 968B, Belleville, IL  62223. Additionally, checks or cash can be mailed to apply toward purchasing birthday treats. 

(Pssst, Sept. 14 is Rolanda's birthday, so that will be an extra special month all around.)

  • Courtesy of Since It's Your Birthday
  • Courtesy of Since It's Your Birthday
  • "Chief Birthday Officer" Rolanda Finch / Photo by FD Finch Photography