How To Organize a Birthday Project aka A Pop-Up Tote Bag Project

On October 22, I will turn 45. I couldn’t be happier as I’ve mention before when describing aging.

Our celebration will be pretty low-key – probably dinner at a good restaurant and a cake in my preferred flavor. I’m pretty sure Laura will gift me with some new winter jammies. Who can complain?

But this year I’m going to add something to the mix, a way to celebrate in the way I love host – a project to help neighbors. Now it feels like a birthday!

First, I picked a project. My heart still beats longingly for the Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project which was pretty successful collecting more than 40,000 bags in two years. I’ve asked my friends to make financial donations to multiple projects in recent months as well as asking for winter gear and personal care products.  I figured my friends have had enough time since 2013 to rack up enough some extra tote bags. I hope.

Second, I picked a recipient. Northside Common Ministries operates a food pantry about a mile from my home, the largest pantry in Western Pennsylvania serving over 1,000 families each month. I’ve worked with them on multiple projects over the years so I know they are credible, fair and culturally competent both with LGBTQ families and the increasing number of refugee and immigrant families moving into the Northside. When you are feeding that many people, purchasing disposable bags is impossible. So, we can have  an impact for at least a portion of the families.

Third, I set a goal. Birthday number 45 so how about 450 tote bags. That would work out to serving 200+ families. The more we get, the more people we help.

Next, I set up the tools. First, I created an event on Facebook with all of the details and invited my friends to attend. This centralizes information and create the opportunity for “buzz” when I post updates. Then I set up a Crowdrise campaign for people who prefer to make a financial donation ($1 = 1 tote bag) directly to the food pantry.

Finally, I organized drop-off spots. I’ll take them at my home or they can be delivered directly to the food pantry. I’ll also have a drop-off at Unblurred on Friday, October 2 at Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery. However, I hope most people go to the food pantry directly so they can see the good work that they do and perhaps remain connected.

And that’s pretty much it. I’ll track donations using a spreadsheet and be sure to thank people. NCM will track financial donations and in-kind offerings on their end. Now I just spread the word.

If you have tote bags that you’d like to contribute, you can take them to Northside Common Ministries 1601 Brighton Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Use the main entrance. Any type of bag is welcome, new or gently used. The rule of thumb is that it should be sturdy enough to carry a gallon of milk (about 8 pounds.) Logos are fine, any color is welcome!

To get you in the mood, I dusted off our lovely parody song ‘Tote Me Maybe’




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  • Sue, I am also having a milestone birthday on October 22 this year!!! This is so inspiring and really helping me to come up with how I want to celebrate.

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