KANSAS CITY, Mo — Chelle Cooper uses her birthday as an opportunity to give back to our community. In light of her 51st birthday this week, her mission was to donate 51 birthday cakes to children who cannot afford one.
“Each year for my birthday, I like to do a service project for the community,” Cooper said. “If I’m going to celebrate it big in celebration of myself, I owe it to the community that I love to pay it back.”
From feeding the hungry at local food banks and pantries to dressing up as Mrs. Claus with gifts, her birthday has always called for an act of kindness.
This year, some of her friends were still apprehensive about person-to-person contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so she opted in for a safer idea.
“I did birthday cake kits… I had seen this somewhere, so it was always kind of at the back of my mind,” Cooper said. “I have some kits going to food pantries all over the city – one in Independence, one in North Kansas City, one in the Northland and the bulk of them are going to Cornerstones of Care.”
Cooper quickly surpassed her goal and has now created more than 200 kits. Cooper said she feels blessed to have the kind of people in her life who care about her projects, and hopes they can be an inspiration to others.
“Every child, every child deserves to have a birthday, and they deserve to be celebrated,” friend Sheri Lee said.
Lee, owner of Lee’s Kinder Academy, said she heard about Cooper’s project and decided to get her kindergarteners involved. She said it teaches them the value of giving.
“We want to teach our children here at Lee’s Kinder Academy that each child as an individual deserves to be celebrated and giving is so important,” Lee said. “We just basically read a story about birthdays and why birthdays are special. We went from reading the story to putting all the kids together for Ms. Chelle, so we’re just so happy.”
Cooper said she has been overwhelmed by the turnout and community support and that the simple act of making a wish on birthday candles might often be taken for granted. The past year has brought unforeseen challenges of its own, but for her, it has given her more of a reason to celebrate life.
“You know, my life isn’t perfect. I, myself, had COVID-19 this last year," Cooper said, "but that’s more reason to celebrate. I’m still here. I’m able to do things with my friends and family. I’m able to give back to my community. Every year that I have a reason to do that is a reason to celebrate."
After a difficult year, Cooper said, she finds deeper appreciation for moments like this.
Cooper plans to accept monetary donations and cake kits until the end of June. She will deliver them to area organizations by the first week of July. To get involved, contact Cooper through her Facebook page.