Group that throws birthday parties for foster kids needs a new home

Austin

A local nonprofit that throws birthday parties for kids in foster care is losing the office space it currently works out of, but it’s not the end of the group’s story.

Pop-Up Birthday will need to find a new home when the church that’s donating space to the organization finishes its remodel, which will eliminate the room where Laila Scott, Colleen Garland and groups of volunteers assemble self-contained party boxes.

“Our mission is to be more than just a box of stuff,” said Scott, the nonprofit’s founder.

The big plastic boxes come with plates, napkins, decorations, goodie bags, snacks, drinks, gifts, a personalized card — everything a foster parent needs to throw a theme party, Scott said.

“We want to make sure that these guys at least get to have that moment of normalcy at a time of total chaos and uncertainty,” Scott said.

On a recent Wednesday, Scott and Garland were packing up a few boxes, one of them for a soon-to-be-15-year-old, Jeremy, who wanted a skateboarding party. Garland wrapped up a skateboard in a large bag and tied it with ribbon. A book about how to skate also went into the box.

“We want to help these families who are doing their best to help their family,” said Garland, a program director at Pop-Up Birthday.

It’s a mission she believes in; Garland was a kinship foster parent for her nephew for more than four years.

“These kids are stating their desires to a trusted adult and they get what they ask for,” she said. “And in a time where they may feel that they don’t have control over their lives, this is something they have control over.”

Garland is a fairly recent addition to the nonprofit. Scott brought her on to help as the scope of the charity’s work continued to grow. Started four years ago, Pop-Up Birthday was a one-person operation, running out of Scott’s guest room at her house. It’s grown exponentially since then.

“We were doing two boxes a month, and then 10, and then, you know, at this time last year we were doing 40 boxes a month,” Scott said. These days the group is putting together 80 to 100 each month. 

The borrowed office space they’re working out of is filled with shelves to hold games, toys and various party supplies for some of the more popular themes (Disney’s “Frozen” is still a favorite, Scott said). The charity has grown into the space that they’re losing.

“We’ve just really reached a point of growth that we’re trying to figure out how to handle,” Scott said.

At the end of March, the group finalized a plan to grow even more. Pop-Up Birthday decided to merge with Foster Angels of Central Texas, a group that provides immediate help for basic needs for kids going into foster care.

Scott has a personal connection to that nonprofit, too; the group helped her out for the first year when she was just starting her charity, giving her advice and operational support. Now Pop-Up Birthday is becoming, in effect, the celebration arm of Foster Angels.

“And we’re actually hoping to expand beyond the birthday: graduations, adoptions, baby showers,” she said.

But in order to keep growing, the combined nonprofit will need a new home. Scott said she’s grateful to the church for letting them set up shop the last two years, but with so much going on each week, it will be hard to work out of her guest room again — though she will if she needs to.

“We’ll make it work,” she said. “We’re not going to skip a beat. We won’t miss a birthday.”

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