Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her Idea: Birthday Parties for Homeless Kids

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her Idea: Birthday Parties for Homeless Kids

Article excerpt

Back in the spring of 2011, Megan Yunn was helping a 10-year-old homeless girl with her reading homework, when the girl stumbled over a word she didn't know: "accustomed."

"I told her how it was used in a sentence, as in 'at birthday parties, people are accustomed to eating birthday cake,' " said Ms. Yunn. The little girl, who was named Beverly, looked confused - and then she told Ms. Yunn she'd never had a birthday party. Or birthday cake either, for that matter.

"It was one of those moments in life, when she shared that with me, it kind of took my breath away," said Ms. Yunn of Irwin, who was then director of volunteer programs at Washington & Jefferson College. She regularly worked at a local shelter's after-school program for at-risk children.

"I thought right then and there that I needed to do something about this."

She did. Beverly's Birthdays was founded in early 2012, with Ms. Yunn quitting her job at the college so she could focus on building the nonprofit. So far, so good: in 2014, with the help of private donations and a grant from the Grable Foundation, she hosted 64 birthday parties for more than 150 children with more than 1,000 guests.

Ms. Yunn is one of seven finalists for Most Outstanding Volunteer of the Year in the local Jefferson Award for Public Service program for 2014, which is administered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with sponsorship by BNYMellon and Highmark. All 48 Jefferson Award winners will be honored at a May 4 ceremony at Heinz Field, where the Most Outstanding Volunteer will be announced. The winner will represent Western Pennsylvania at the national Jefferson Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., this summer.

As part of the program, WOMEN of Southwestern PA will donate $1,000 to Beverly's Birthdays on Ms. Yunn's behalf.

Ms. Yunn was nominated for the award by Katelynn Livingston, who, after working with her at Washington & Jefferson College considers Ms. …

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