It’s our birthday on the 15th! This month we are turning 12! This year for our birthday we have partnered with Bright Blessings for a fundraiser. We will have birthday cake batter French macarons available in all 5 of our locations and 100% of the proceeds will directly benefit Bright Blessings! They are an incredible local Charlotte nonprofit committed to “bringing joy, care and hope to homeless and impoverished children by mobilizing community volunteers of all ages.” Below you can read our Q+A with Melissa Tamez (Development Manager of Bright Blessings) For more information, you can find their website here: https://www.brightblessingsusa.org/
Q: What was it that inspired John and Amy Cervantes to start what would become Bright Blessings in 2005? Was there a specific moment or situation that inspired them?
A: When Bright Blessings began, John and Amy had three young boys and they wanted to teach them how to give back from a young age. They started by throwing a birthday party once a month at one shelter as a family. They stored supplies in their garage and did it all on their own. From there, friends and family wanted to party too. Over the years, we’ve grown from a one family garage operation to a staffed facility with space for tons of inventory and volunteers.
Q: How many children have benefitted from the various Bright Blessings programs?
A: Since the very beginning, we have served almost 100,000 children. We will very likely hit the 100k mark within the next month.
Q: Is there a memory, or memories that stand out the most to you?
A: Yes! My first shelter party participating in was the best. Our staff adopts an October shelter party each year. We bring halloween costumes for the kids to play dressup and take photos of themselves to keep. I will never forget how excited the birthday children were for their gifts, that is always wonderful. But, my favorite part was how excited these kiddos were to have a physical photo of themselves to keep. I never would have imagined that would be something so special but it was. Shelter birthday parties are how Bright Blessings started and I feel like they are still the most amazing way to be involved. You really get a sense of the good you’re doing and surrounding yourself with happy smiling kids doesn’t hurt either!
Q: How would you describe Bright Blessings and all of its programs to someone just learning about the organization?
A: Bright Blessings is a multifaceted organization and it is really easy to get lost in all the amazing things going on here. The simplest explanation I can give is that our mission is to bring joy, care and hope to homeless and impoverished children by mobilizing community volunteers of all ages. We serve children ages birth to 18. We have four programs; Bless-A-Birthday, Bless-A-Baby, Gift of Literacy and Gift of Care. Each program was born after we saw a need within the population we serve.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your organization and how you serve others?
A: We have definitely had to be creative and flexible during all of this. We were deemed an essential business so our staff has been working to serve children in need. Obviously, during the stay at home order, we weren’t able to invite volunteers into our facility. We did have to furlough one employee and a couple of others voluntarily took a short leave. We are back to normal staffing now and we’re still being flexible as we decide the best and safest way to move forward.
Q: What shifts/pivots has Bright Blessings had to make during COVID-19?
A: Our student services department pretty much shut down with no way to get birthday packages to specific children when schools closed. We knew there was a need and we knew that need was growing. We reached out to schools that were being used as food distribution sites to ask if we could supply them with snack packs to supplement the meals being distributed as well as hygiene kits. We were met with overwhelming amounts of YES’s. We’ve distributed THOUSANDS of these kits this year, blowing our typical service numbers out of the water.
Q: What are the immediate needs of your organization and the children you serve?
A: Without a doubt, our biggest need is always funding. Every dollar we have is through donations from individuals, businesses and foundations or from grants. We very gladly take in-kind donations as well. You can find a list of items we need on our website as well as instructions for how to assemble some of our kits at home. During COVID-19 specifically, we have seen a HUGE increase in our in-kind donations, specifically snack packs and hygiene kits. We have been blown away by how our community has rallied around us during this time.
Q: What excites you most about working with Bright Blessings?
A: In my past life, I was a business owner and then shifted into an office manager role at a local small business. Both roles were fulfilling for a while but after a major health situation in my family I knew I needed a change. I wanted to spend my working hours doing something that made me feel like I was doing some good. I can say without a doubt that I feel that way every day at Bright Blessings. I go to church with John and Amy Cervantes so I’ve seen the organization grow over the years and I am honestly honored to be a small part of it. We also have a really fun staff. We’re a family and we’re all working together towards the same goal. I know I’m lucky to be here.
Q: How do you find/seek joy these days?
A: I very honestly love when I come in to work. Especially since I’ve been helping my 7 year old with remote learning. That does NOT bring me joy, haha. Other than work, my family brings me joy. I have a husband who is honestly my best friend. We’ve been together for 16 years and I know I’m lucky to still find joy with him. We have a 7 year old daughter and two 1 year old golden retrievers who bring me lots of joy.
Q: How can the community get involved with Bright Blessings?
A: Bright Blessings is ALL ABOUT community involvement. We would not be able to function without our community. Our volunteer power is our biggest asset. You can join us at open volunteer sessions, by booking a group volunteer session, hosting a shelter party, being a delivery driver, working on ‘from your location’ projects and more. Check out the ‘Get Involved’ tab on our website to find out exactly how to get started.
Q: What resources does Bright Blessings need more of?
A: We can’t do anything without volunteers, financial assistance or inventory. However you can give is what we need.
Q: What do you want the community to understand most about Bright Blessings?
A: We’re here to serve children living in unimaginable situations. These kids didn’t do anything to be where they are. We hope to bring awareness to the population we serve while we bring joy, care and hope to children in need. When we rally our community around a portion of us who are hurting, the results are always good. At the end of the day, it’s all about being there for each other.