Tag Archives: birthday

Kim Steller (left) and 
Lori Baylin are co-directors of the Maryland branch of 
The Birthday Box.

A Birthday to Remember

 Kim Steller (left) and  Lori Baylin are co-directors of the Maryland branch of  The Birthday Box.

Kim Steller (left) and Lori Baylin are co-directors of the Maryland branch of The Birthday Box.

Every child deserves a special birthday.

That’s the idea behind a new Maryland nonprofit started by Lori Baylin of Reisterstown and Kim Steller of Owings Mills. The two, who attended McDonogh School and the University of Wisconsin together, were reacquainted when their daughters, now 7, were classmates at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC Early Childhood Education Center.

“Kim approached me at a party because she knew I had done a lot of work in the community and told me she was interested in volunteering,” recalled Baylin, 39. “My sister created The Birthday Box in New Jersey, and we talked about starting a branch here in Maryland.”

The Birthday Box provides a birthday-in-a-box for a child whose family lacks the resources to provide a celebration. It provides party supplies, including paper goods, utensils, a personalized birthday cake and a new toy for the birthday girl or boy. It is an ongoing program entirely funded by donations from individuals and businesses.

When she learned about The Birthday Box, Steller, 37 was very enthusiastic. Within months, she and Baylin had registered and received 501(c)(3) status. After that, Steller and Baylin began reaching out to local organizations to let them know about the service they were providing. Sarah’s Hope, a program for homeless women and families located at Hannah More Shelter in Reisterstown, was the first organization to take advantage of The Birthday Box.

“They [shelter staff members] usually have birthday parties once a month to celebrate all the kids at the shelter who were born in that month. So, none of the kids have their own special day. When they heard about our idea, they loved it,” said Steller.

Parties are scheduled through an online calendar, where an organizational liaison or parent fills in information such as the party date, gender and age of the birthday child so that Baylin and Steller can prepare the party and purchase an appropriate gift. Information provided to The Birthday Box is anonymous so no one needs to know a family is unable to afford a celebration for its child. Families have the option of letting their child know that the party has been donated by The Birthday Box or can present the party without sharing that information.

“The first two birthdays we did were for siblings. The mom hadn’t received [an anticipated] check [that month], and being able to give her children a party empowered her to feel good about herself and made her kids feel good about themselves, too,” said Baylin, who has a social work background and has been on the boards of several nonprofits. “This was a natural fit. And it’s been wonderful to see the response from the community and local businesses.”

Recently, The Birthday Box also provided parties for children at INNterim Housing Corporation in Pikesville.

Steller said a big motivator for her was setting a good example for her children.

“It’s easy to talk to kids about giving back and helping the needy, but doing it is something different. When they actually see it and do it, it really sinks in. Sometimes I have gifts in the car, and in the beginning my son would ask, ‘Are those for me?’ I’d say, ‘No, they’re for The Birthday Box.’ Now he gets it. He understands there are children less fortunate than him,” Steller said.

Both women said they involve their children in Birthday Box activities.

“They help to gather materials and deliver boxes,” said Baylin.

In fact, both Baylin and Steller’s daughters will be celebrating birthdays soon. Each will be donating one gift to The Birthday Box.

Celebrate!

Interested in donating to The Birthday Box? In addition to cash contributions, Baylin and Steller are grateful to receive donations of new toys, paper plates, cups, napkins, forks, giftwrap, tape, candles and gift cards for use at local bakeries. Donations can also be made in honor of a birthday or other special occasion. All donations can be made online at thebirthdaybox.org.

On Thursday, Aug. 1 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., The Birthday Box will hold a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen, 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley. Twenty percent of all of that day’s sales will be donated to The Birthday Box.

For more information, and to receive a digital or hard copy flyer about the event, visit thebirthdaybox.org.

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter sellin@jewishtimes.com

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Never Too Old

Every workout at the Edward A. Myerberg Center puts a smile on Mary Shofer’s face. Here she shares a laugh with daughter Irene Merenbloom. (Provided)

Every workout at the Edward A. Myerberg Center puts a smile on Mary Shofer’s face. Here she shares a laugh with daughter Irene Merenbloom. (Provided)

Last Friday morning the Edward A. Myerberg Center was all about Mary Shofer.

A day before Shofer’s 105th birthday, the fitness center regulars packed the workout area for a surprise birthday party. There were also family and friends and a variety of desserts and drinks. Countless photos were snapped. A reporter from a local news station even came to do an interview.

A landmark day indeed. But what was Shofer thinking the whole time?

She just wanted to start her workout.

After wading through the throngs of people who came to wish her well — stopping to greet, hug and kiss each one — Shofer finally made it into the gym. She then climbed onto the recumbent bicycle — dubbed by many as her throne — and began pedaling away.

A fixture at the Myerberg for the last six-plus years, Shofer feels as comfortable on that bike as she does in her own home. Coming to the gym is a routine she has embraced. Now, she can’t imagine life without it.

“I love it,” Shofer said of working out. “I look forward to it constantly, and I feel badly when I can’t make it.”

Shofer’s passion for the gym originated out of necessity. In October 2006, at the age of 98, she broke her hip. After successful surgery and several physical therapy sessions, she was told by her doctors that she needed a means to continue improving her strength and balance. She could
either continue physical therapy or start working out a gym.

“She came reluctantly but fell in love with it. The rest is history. This is very much a part of her life,” said daughter Irene Merenbloom, who added that in addition to its health benefits, the gym provides an environment that stimulates social interaction.

Frequenting the gym four to five times per week, her regular routine consists of about 45 minutes on the bike. She’ll then use a variety of the center’s strength machines, including chest press, lateral pull down and leg press.

Nicole Barr took over as the Myerberg’s health and fitness director last November. She was immediately taken by Shofer’s commitment.

Barr marveled that Shofer is not just physically strong, but mentally tough, too. She said that despite a couple falls here and there, Shofer “gets right back up and comes in here.”

“I can only assume she has been doing this for a while because she just has this mentality about her,” Barr said.

Barr is partly correct. While Shofer only developed into a gym-goer after her hip surgery, she has always been active.

Shofer said that she picked up walking as a regular activity after graduating from high school. In her (much) younger days, she would walk to and from her home in Upper Park Heights to her bookkeeping job just south of North Avenue. Now, her cardio is of the stationary variety, but she enjoys it just as much.

Meanwhile, many of the center’s other members simply enjoy watching her.

“The fact that she can get in here at that age and work out on every piece of equipment — I’m lucky if I can work out on three,” said Anita Glick, 81. “She’s a lot of people’s inspiration.”

Shofer humbly shrugs off the notion that her aptitude at 105 encourages others to follow in her footsteps, reasoning that there are plenty of other Myerberg members who defy their age.

However, the numbers don’t lie. Just six minutes into her workout, Shofer’s spirited pedaling had already earned her more than a mile of biking.

“I know it’s good for my health. Maybe it will extend my life a bit,” she said.

Uh, hasn’t it already?

Said Shofer, “Absolutely.”

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter — dsnyder@jewishtimes.com