Taylor Willhoit wanted to make her 9th birthday party about more than just herself.
After seeing a television commercial for “Feed the Children,” Taylor told her mother Cheryl that she wanted to collect donations for the homeless instead of receiving presents on her birthday.
Taylor’s mom wanted to find a local organization to give the donations to. She decided on The Caring Place after talking to Cleveland first lady Sandra Rowland about the idea.
Cheryl said she thought it was “the sweetest thing” when Taylor came to her with the idea. She also commented that she was glad her daughter wanted to help others.
Taylor and her mom began accepting donations soon after choosing The Caring Place. Taylor said she started telling her friends at school about her project and Cheryl said she attached a flier about The Caring Place to each invitation she sent out to Taylor’s party at Cleveland Skate Place.
The fliers outlined donation ideas for simple meals. Although many of her family and friends thought it was impossible, Taylor said she set a goal of collecting 1,000 pounds of food.
Taylor said it would happen “because I have faith.” Her faith and efforts paid off. She exceeded her goal. The day of her party Taylor said she was happy with what she had collected.
“I don’t think my car (minivan) could hold much more,” Cheryl said.
However, Cheryl said that she still had some donations that she needed to pick up.
When the total came in Taylor’s efforts had brought in more than 1,200 pounds of groceries, $90 in donations and four bags of clothes. Taylor was able to deliver the donations to The Caring Place on Monday, and see just where all the donations would go.
Cheryl had also wanted Taylor and some of her friends to be able to serve a meal at The Caring Place. However, because of a policy requiring all volunteers to be at least 13 years old that plan will have to fulfilled another year. While the Willhoits were delivering the donations, Mayor Tom Rowland and his wife Sandra stopped by to give Taylor a charm crest of the City of Cleveland and a donation since they were unable to attend her party.
Taylor was not alone in her efforts. In addition to family and friends, the Willhoits also partnered with WOOP FM, a local radio station.
Cheryl said WOOP let Taylor set up two collection bins at the station. The station also interviewed Taylor about her plan and made her an honorary junior disk jockey. The station also invited Taylor to ride on their float in the Cleveland Christmas parade.
Cheryl said Steve Hixson at the station had been very helpful, as had Taylor’s school Tennessee Christian Preparatory School.
Seeing the ad for “Feed the Children” was not Taylor’s first encounter with those less fortunate. Cheryl said the family has always donated to local organizations during the holiday season. However, Taylor saw the effects of homelessness for the first time while on vacation last summer in Hawaii.
The Caring Place is located at 130 Wildwood Ave. S. E. in Cleveland. To make arrangements to bring contributions to The Caring Place, call 423-472-4414.