On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013, a group of local volunteers worked through the day to provide help and some happiness to local homeless children.
Throughout the day, 140 people worked to wrap books and birthday gift sets, create birthday cards, hygiene kits, make pillows, and more.
Bright Blessings, a nonprofit organization in Matthews, hosted the day of service at their “Giving Village” in Matthews, in honor of MLK Day, providing area volunteers a way to help homeless children in the greater Charlotte region.
In 2005, co-founder Amy Cervantes started Bright Blessings with her husband John after a birthday party for their eldest son, who was turning three.
“Well here was Alex, and he was surrounded by all these family and friends and beaming with joy and feeling very, very special and loved,” Cervantes said. “What about kids who maybe don’t get to experience that, and that led us to think about homeless childrenčdo they have a chance to celebrate their birthdays?”
The program was also founded to promote volunteerism and service among community members.
“Part of our mission here at Bright Blessings is not only to serve the homeless population, but to also encourage volunteerism through the community, and especially with families,” Cervantes said.
From that idea, the family started doing service projects, eventually involving more family members, church friends, and three years later, Bright Blessings was incorporated as a nonprofit.
Today they help approximately 3,200 homeless children in Mecklenberg, Union, Cabarrus, and York (S.C.) counties through a network of 17 partner agencies.
They started the organization to help bring that happiness to area children in need, and to engage their children in service activities so that they would know and understand the joy that comes from serving others.
The goal of the organization is to “bring joy, recognition, and support to children and families during difficult and sad times in their lives.”
The two main programs are Bless-A-Birthday, which provides a birthday celebration and gifts for homeless kids, and Bless-A-Baby, which gives a baby shower, gifts, and helpful products to new mothers and infants.
Bright Blessings celebrates around 200 birthdays a month, giving 500-600 gifts per year, with themes varying for gender and age groups, and each gift set includes a hand-made birthday card.
At the day of service, volunteers also wrapped hundreds of books for Black History Month, as part of the organization’s “Gift of Literacy” program.
“We’re really happy to see the community come out the way it has for this,” Cervantes said. “It was incredible to plan for 140 volunteers and have every single one of those slots get filled up, so we’re very excited.”