O’FALLON – Hinchcliffe Elementary Junior Girl Scout Troop 163 has learned what it means to make difference to others. Last Fall, Troop 163 brainstormed on what they could do to make a difference in their community. They decided to help kids in the surrounding communities be able to celebrate their birthdays – no matter what their circumstances.
They decided to make “Birthday in a Bag” donations. A “Birthday in a Bag” is a large birthday gift bag that contains a cake mix, icing, baking pan, candles, balloons, a birthday card, birthday plates & napkins – everything a family would need to celebrate a child’s birthday at home.
These bags would then be donated to local food pantries and family organizations to be available to parents or caregivers. Troop 163 decided to hold a donation drive at their school, Hinchcliffe Elementary in O’Fallon. The troop also decided to have a school-wide contest to see which class could bring in the most “Birthday in a Bag” donations. The winning class would win a Taco Tuesday party and the second place class would win a “My Favorite Donut Day.”
The troop decided their goal was to receive 30 Birthday Bags. So the first week of November 2018, Troop 163 held a donation drive handing out flyers and emailing teachers and Hinchcliffe families to get everybody on board with the project. Students could donate single items to their class and earn a point per item or they could donate an entire “Birthday in a Bag” and receive 20 points. At the end of the week the students and staff had donated 193 Birthday bags.
Mrs. Palmisano’s 4th grade class, Mrs. Mueller and Mrs. Etling’s Special Education classes were the first place winners of the contest and enjoyed an in-class Taco Tuesday party enjoying tacos, chips and salsa and cinnamon sugar tortillas. Mrs. Neighbors’ 5th grade class were the second place winners and enjoyed a “My Favorite Donut Day”.
The troop has since traveled to surrounding community food pantries in O’Fallon, Caseyville, Belleville, Fairview Heights and East St. Louis to deliver their special Birthday bags. The volunteers in these organizations were overwhelmed with the generosity of the Birthday Bag donations.
Troop 163 has now earned the esteemed Bronze Award – the highest level award earned by Junior Girl Scouts. The troop would like to thank many people for making this project a success: Mrs. Belobradic, teachers, staff, families and students of Hinchcliffe Elementary for their generosity; Gary and the crew at Casa Azteca for supporting the troop with their community service project by donating the Taco Tuesday party to over 50 students and teachers. Finally, to Thrivent Financial for providing the $250 grant money to cover the costs of making the flyers and supplies needed to launch the donation drive.