Program hosts birthday bashes for homeless kids

Part of Peg Bremner’s job as head of the bakery department in the Bedford Stop & Shop is to decorate birthday cakes.

And knowing that children find joy in her creations is certainly a happy perk.

But a while back, a thought took hold in her mind – one she just couldn’t shake.

What about children who are homeless? she wondered.

Do they get birthday parties?

With beautifully decorated cakes?

Or are their families simply too preoccupied with just making it through the day?

“It just kind of hit me one day that there are children out there who may not get a birthday party,” said Bremner. “I just couldn’t let go of that.”

Bremner’s anxiety was turned into action during a conversation with one of her customers, Bedford resident Mimi Silverman.

“When I talked to Mimi, it was, well, I just thought we could do something,” said Bremner. “I thought that if we could have a party for them, it would be like they were going to their aunt’s house.”

Silverman, who had contacts in the human services field, reached out to Families in Transition, a Manchester-based social service agency that assists families struggling with a variety of issues, including homelessness.

“It was a dream of Peg’s to bring a little joy to disadvantaged children,” said Silverman.

“It was her vision to make birthday cakes, and when she asked me if I knew somebody who could benefit from this, I contacted the people at Families in Transition, and they thought it was a great idea.”

The idea soon blossomed into a program that now hosts birthday parties for children of homeless families every other month, with a small army of volunteers, many of them from Bedford, who help provide the food, the entertainment, the gifts and the party favors.

“The kids come from the greater Manchester area, and they are always so excited when they see what’s being done for them,” said Silverman. “They’re always so appreciative.”

The program, dubbed “A Birthday Party to Remember,” began in July 2009, and depending on the theme of the party can include a visit from a clown, a magician, or even wild animals, courtesy of Granite State Zoo Company.

And, of course, there is the pizza, donated by xxxxxxxxx, as well as the decorations and the pinatas, made each month by the students at McKelvie School.

The desire to provide assistance is contagious, say organizers. Teri Barclay, owner of The Hair After, a beauty salon located in Bedford Square, remembers the time when a customer of hers saw the sign promoting “A Birthday Party to Remember” on a wall in her salon.

“It was actually at the very beginning when it started,” said Barclay. “I was talking to this client about it, and after I finished doing her hair I went back to my station and noticed that she’d left some money. I thought, well, that was nice, she donated a little, but when I looked closely I saw that she had left $200.”

Barclay called her client later that day to make sure she hadn’t made a mistake.

“She said no, it wasn’t a mistake,” said Barclay. “She had just had her birthday, and it was money given to her and she wanted to give it to the kids. I was just really touched by what she did.”

Each party, according to Silverman, costs about $400, which coverx the food, entertainment, gifts and the party favors that go to friends and siblings of the birthday boy or girl.

“To say that the Bedford community is very much involved in this is an understatement,” said Silverman.

“People contribute in all different ways. I have to say that we are more thrilled and pleased than even the children are. When the kids leave, we go out with such a glow.”

Anyone interested in contributing to “A Birthday Party to Remember” can visit the Families in Transition website at www.fitnh.org.

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