UW News

May 21, 2009

Organization of the week: Cheerful Givers of Washington

Editor’s note: There are many organizations open to the UW faculty and staff. Some have been around for years and some are new. Some are structured groups with officers and committees; some are much more informal. University Week provides a space for campus groups to publish their information, and beginning this quarter, we’d like to introduce you to one group a week. This week, Briana Keller, a counselor in the Career Center, introduces the Cheerful Givers of Washington.

Who can join?

Anyone. In terms of the UW campus, any student or faculty or staff member can join. But more broadly, in terms of the city, anyone from the age of 5 on up can help. We hold no monthly meetings, so we’re not a campus group in that sense.

What does the organization do?

We provide toy-filled birthday gift bags to food pantries and homeless shelters so parents living in poverty can give their child a birthday gift. We are invisible — this benefits the children but it also benefits the parents, who get to experience the joy of giving a gift.

Since its formation in 1994, Cheerful Givers has helped more than 300,000 children get gift bags on their birthday. Originally based in Minnesota, the group expanded to the Northwest in 2005 and has since helped more than 3,318 celebrate their birthdays.

Recent or typical activities:

Last November we hosted a gigantic, campuswide bag-making event. It was sponsored in part by the Combined Fund Drive for its Charity of the Month event. So as part of that, about 50 staff members came together over a lunch period and we made about 300 bags.

The group also held a fundraiser around the time of Presidents Day in February. Anyone from the UW community can donate to Cheerful Givers as part of the CFD at this Web site. Cheerful Givers is charity number 1478364.

How can people get involved?

They can contact me to join the group, at briana@cheerfulgivers.org or 206-618-5215. Also, individual departments or groups on campus can create their own Cheerful Givers team if they want to. And we’re having a gigantic community event at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 19 at the Redmond Regional Library and anybody is welcome to come to that.

People participating in Cheerful Givers can contribute with their time or their money. You can recruit co-workers to make birthday bags and even host a bag-creating event. Departments on campus who have recently hosted events include the Counseling Center, Career Center and the departments of Chemical Engineering and Psychiatry and Behavioral Serivices.

The organization also always needs new gifts that are gender-neutral and appropriate for children from 3 to 12. Items such as bubbles, stuffed animals, stickers, crayons, mini-puzzles, notepads and bouncy balls are welcome. Click here to learn more.