In 2020, following in her mother, Alanna Mattimore’s—a member of the Patchogue-Medford Youth & Community Services (PMYCS)— philanthropic footsteps, then 4-year old Avery Mattimore observed, through her mother’s work that during the pandemic, many people in the community couldn’t even afford necessities such as food and household items, and many weren’t able to go to work during this unprecedented time, when the community organization continued to safely provide support and resources.
“It was Avery’s 4th birthday in May, on the first day when groups of 10 or more could gather, so she saw how difficult it was to have a birthday party,” said Mattimore of her daughter’s initial spark of inspiration, which resulted in the program’s inception. Instead of simply enjoying her birthday party, which would have been more than understandable, Avery immediately began to think of all the other little children who wouldn’t be as fortunate that year, due to the pandemic or other circumstances.
“How can we help?” Avery inquired of her mother, who then proposed the idea to the youth center, where she is a board member, to see if the families who already come to PMYCS had any interest in birthday bags. The charitable concept was welcomed by the center as a sweet addition to the many services already provided there. A flier is prominently displayed, where families coming in for food, clothing, or other services such as counseling, after-school programs, and recreational programs, are informed of what is now officially known as Avery’s Birthday Blessings.
Families struggling financially may not have resources for even the basic birthday staples—packed with love—included in the goodie bags, such as cake mix and frosting. The birthday child even gets to request a special birthday theme for things such as plates or decorations to add to the festive ambiance.
“We go to Party City, or we use what we already have here. It’s grown into a giant shelf in Avery’s room with all the goodies,” said Mattimore. Avery, now 6, has only grown in her dedication to the project, which has expanded over the years.
The only thing more synonymous with birthdays than cake is presents; so, it was a natural progression— in the program’s sophomore year—when Avery and her mother decided that the children should get a gift as well, with a blank birthday card which the parents can fill in however they choose.
As the cost of eggs and other groceries continues to skyrocket, it’s appreciated that in 2021, milk, eggs, and oil were added to the goodie bags, along with cake mix and other supplies, to make sure that families leave with all the ingredients required for birthday baking. “Especially with the price of these things, at the moment, we’ve included those ingredients, and also added in mini pinatas filled with candy. It’s grown; she enjoys doing it. The families are super appreciative. She’s an avid reader, so we include age-appropriate books. She likes to pick those out as well,” said Mattimore.
“I feel excited to make the goodie bags, because I know they probably make the kids happy,” Avery added.
Mattimore is proud of her daughter—a little girl poised to make big changes in the world, with such a promising head-start—and the apple doesn’t fall far from the giving tree:
“I think it probably comes from me. She’s big into helping with the read-a-thon. She’s a very, very good kid. She raised $1250 during the read-a-thon for Thanksgiving. We had people pledge, such as coworkers, per chapter, or people donated baskets of food in Patchogue-Medford. She’s so empathetic,” said Mattimore.
Karen Drago, executive director of PMYCS, expressed her gratitude to Avery and her mother for the creativity, dedication, hard work, and spirit of giving they bring, which exemplifies the community organization’s credo, especially for the future generation.
“PMYCS has been extremely lucky to have such an amazing young lady who cares about the people that come to our center. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for families in need and part of that is positive mental health. Avery’s Birthday Blessings is one of our Mental Health Supports and allows parents, who may not necessarily be able to afford the party supplies and a gift, to be provided with the essentials of a child’s birthday party, a gift card, and a peace of mind that their child will be able to celebrate. Avery’s mom, Alanna, and I had a connection right from the start, and she also has been such an asset to PMYCS with her donations, and more importantly her time and dedication to our mission. Our community is a much better place because of Avery and Alanna,” Drago said.
For more information go to pmycs.org.
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