Arts & Events

The Spirit of Giving Gets Contagious

By Suzie Skugstad
Friday December 28, 2007

For her sixth birthday this year, first-grader Casey Lane decided that she didn’t want a “typical” party. She wanted to have fun with her friends AND help homeless kids while she was at it—even if it meant not receiving presents from her friends (pictured with all the gift bags).  

“As long as I can open one from you and dad and grandma and grandpa, it’s OK,” Casey told her mother, Suzanne.  

Suzanne and Casey heard from a friend about an organization that provides small canvas bags (at $3 each) to fill with a few essential comfort items for homeless kids to feel safe and secure: a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a book. Suzanne learned how meaningful it is for young, homeless children to count on these items and to call them their own.  

They also provided Suzanne and Casey with a list of the various shelters in our area that need the bags: Casey chose the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP) on Dwight Way. (virtual tour  

Twenty bags were purchased by the Lanes—one for each young party guest and a few extras. Each child was asked to bring a gently used stuffed animal to the party instead of a traditional gift for inclusion in the bag. Many of Casey’s family, neighbors, and friends wanted to pitch in and help purchase the blankets when they heard the great idea.  

After explaining a little about the project to Casey’s party pals, each one excitedly assembled their bag and finished it off with their own hand-drawn hang tag designating boy or girl and age group. The busy elves were all smiles as the spirit of giving took hold.  

A few days after the party, Casey was able to visit BFHP with her mom and dad to drop off the filled “goody bags” and to see where the formerly homeless kids and their families stay. Casey enjoyed the tour except for one thing: “All the kids were at school so I didn’t get to meet them!”  

The shelter staff was delighted to receive so many lovingly filled bags and assured Casey that the kids would love getting them. When we asked Casey what her favorite part of the experience was, she said, “I liked going to the shelter, and getting a tour from the director was fun.”  

Then she added cheerfully, “I will do it again next year!”  


If you would like to support BFHP’s “Gifts for the Forgotten” for homeless men and women, a $15 donation will buy: thermal socks; a woolen hat and fleece scarf; inner and outer gloves—all in a festive holiday bag. Checks can be sent to BFHP, 2140 Dwight Way, Berkeley CA 94704, on-line at or call BFHP 649-4965.