Long Beach, CA — Birthdays are the most special day of the year for every child. Despite the fact that children enjoy celebrating their birthdays with their families and friends and receiving numerous gifts, some parents struggle to pay for the entire event, and this is especially the case with a growing number of parents in recent months as inflation hits hard and life becomes much more expensive.
Therefore, Cornelis van Styegeren, a retired sociology professor from Long Beach City College, decided to take things into his own hands and assist families in need with planning the ultimate birthday parties for their loved ones.
Styegeren joined the Long Beach Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization, after retiring from his employment years ago and gaining a better understanding of the challenges that people living in poverty confront on a daily basis as a result of financial hardships.
Seeing people struggle every day inspired Styegeren to do something to help children in the Long Beach area. After initially seeing and then examining in depth a program in the Netherlands, he came up with the idea of assisting struggling parents in planning birthday parties for their children. According to the program he researched. Per the program he studied, a Rotterdam-based non-profit was providing thousands of gift boxes full of toys and party treats to children in poor families every year. After a thorough examination of the program, he decided to create a similar initiative to aid local youngsters.
Styegeren owns a 3,000-square-foot home on First Street, and he has decided to convert it into a warehouse where he and his coworker, Wendi Kondash, would store all the essential items, supplies, and bulk purchases of gifts.
Styegeren had a difficult time getting the non-profit up and going. According to him, the concept of establishing a non-profit organization originated in 2020, but he only managed to do it last year. Before he became a certified nonprofit, however, it took over a year to complete the registration procedure and all the necessary documentation. He hired Kondash towards the end of the year, who is currently in charge of donation initiatives.
With the assistance of the local community, local businesses, and most importantly, the local food banks, the non-profit is prepared to begin distributing gifts as they have collected donations and have approximately 400 boxes ready.
Styegeren invites parents who struggle to plan birthday parties for their children to submit an application to local food banks. According to him, the process should take approximately two weeks, so parents who wish to apply for boxes should do so at least two weeks before their children’s birthday parties.
The non-profit will provide boxes for party organizations, but also toys and gifts.
“So far, we’ve got eight food banks we’re working with,” Styegeren said, according to Press Telegram. “We’re working with the Rescue Mission, the COA (Christian Outreach in Action), Lutheran Charities, others.”
In the long run, Styegeren is certain that his non-profit will assist 6,000 to 8,000 children living in poverty annually, and that these youngsters will celebrate their birthdays like everyone else.