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Celebrate giving

Innovative ways to incorporate giving into your parties and events

As I’ve moved into adulthood, I’ve come to appreciate an opportunity to get a group together to celebrate something. Be it birthdays, babies, weddings, or other exciting news, I’m here for it. But these gatherings can also cause stress both in the form of “stuff”—thoughtful gifts and trinkets that you’re not quite sure what to do with or how long to hold onto—as well as anxiety for the gift giver who isn’t sure what to get for “the person who has everything.”

If you’re celebrating a birthday, those you invite are naturally going to be inclined to bring a gift; it’s just what we’ve been trained to do. But I’m here to tell you there is another way, and it doesn’t involve a trip to Targét. If you decide to go the charitable route in lieu of gifts, you can execute this in a few different ways: 1. Nominate a nonprofit for friends and family to donate to in honor of your birthday. I try to pick a cause or organization that works on issues close to me or those I love. 2. Flip the script and ask birthday party guests to give on your behalf to their favorite charity. 3. Start ’em young by getting your child on board by using their party as an opportunity to host a toy drive and invite guests to bring an item to donate to a cause—like the Pirate Toy Fund, which distributes new toys year-round to children in need throughout the Greater Rochester region, or Golisano Children’s Hospital

For their seventh birthday, my twin nieces, Emmie and Katie, decided that they wanted to ask for donations to help families through It’s About Caring for Kids (IACKids), an organization that helps families in the region who are in need of financial assistance during their child’s long-term hospitalization. They hosted a party as planned, but instead of birthday gifts from school and neighborhood friends in attendance, they asked those who were comfortable doing so to make a monetary donation. Together they raised $500 for IACKids. It’s never too early to get the kids involved in giving back.

Happy Birthday (to you), Cha Cha Cha— no, I’m not singing (you’re welcome, I’ll spare your ears)—I’m talking about the local organization that is bringing birthday cheer to children in need, one classroom at a time. Here’s the scoop: Happy Birthday, Cha Cha Cha works with the Rochester City School District—a district with many student households living at or below the poverty level—to adopt classrooms with the goal of having each child in the classroom feel noticed and celebrated on their birthday. Elementary school kids receive two wrapped toys and a Cha Cha Cha bag of goodies, including Birthday Cake Oreos, a book, new socks, new underwear, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap as well as a few grocery items they can easily enjoy at home (note, there is also an option to adopt high school classrooms for older students who are kids at heart). Whether you’re seven or seventy, you can share your birthday by encouraging loved ones to donate dollars or wish list items to your Cha Cha Cha Party—a party with purpose.

Another thoughtful way of giving back in lieu of physical gifts is through the Kiva microfunds platform, an international nonprofit that I first learned of when my aunt gifted me fifty dollars for my birthday in 2009 to loan (and learn). Kiva exists to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive, with 100 percent of every dollar you lend going toward funding loans. I’ve since gifted Kiva credit to friends (hot tip: this makes for a meaningful last-minute gift that you can print or email; no running around required), and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give a Kiva card, you give someone else the chance to make a loan to a borrower who inspires them. When that loan is repaid, they can lend those funds again and again to make an even bigger difference, with fundable loans on both local and international levels. I’ve currently got $41 available to loan, and it all started with a $50 gift over a decade ago—thank you, Aunt Jill! 

I’m a firm believer that all celebrations are a great time for wine, and by celebrations, I’m talking anniversaries, retirement parties, or the occasional Tuesday. What better way to imbibe than with a wine that gives back (hello, pinot with purpose), and Bravery Wines is doing just that. Air Force veteran Corey Christman and his wife, Jennifer, have partnered with award-winning winery Anthony Road Wine Company to produce limited-quantity, high-quality hand-crafted New York state wines. They give back to organizations that serve veterans by donating a portion of bottle purchases to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which supports injured service members and their families. Whether you’re sipping Bravery Rosé, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, or Vignoles, know that you’re getting your “glou-glou” on for good and “Celebrating the hero in you,” as the wine brand’s website thoughtfully boasts.

The aforementioned suggestions for alternate ways to give whilst celebrating are just the tip of the charitable iceberg and can be incorporated beyond birthdays. Think baby showers and weddings, too—because not everyone needs a Diaper Genie (trust me, a garbage can will do) or a heart-shaped wine bottle stopper wedding favor for that matter—just drink the wine already!

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