Imagine walking into a bat mitzvah and on every table there are big, fluffy tutus. You would probably think, “Hmm. Interesting choice of centerpiece…” Then you would walk up to your table and read the little pink card explaining that the tutu and the other assorted dancewear on the tables are being donated to underprivileged children in South Africa. Parties don’t just have to be about having fun, they can also be about helping people, and one way to do so is with centerpieces. Centerpieces are an integral part of many events’ decor, and donations are a relatively simple way to make something beautiful also something practical.
Centerpieces that are made from items to be donated last longer than flowers, which may be beautiful, but flowers are generally just discarded after the party. There are scores of ideas for things to donate; in fact, they can be practically anything! Some great donation and organization ideas for different themes are: bags filled with cosmetics and toiletries donated to a women’s shelter; canned or non-perishable foods to a food bank; musical instruments, art supplies, dance wear or sports equipment to an underprivileged/inner city school; books or school supplies to a library or underprivileged/inner city school; Lego, teddy bears or other assorted toys to a local shelter with children; trees to be planted at an underprivileged school; pet supplies to the ASPCA or local animal shelters; various plants donated to a zoo (ex. bamboo, honeylocust, orchids, native acacia, grapevine or any fruits and veggies); or new shoes to a local shelter.
Now, how does one go about this? Almost anything can be a donation; just find an issue you’re interested in helping. Then find an organization that caters to this need, ask what they need, determine how and when to deliver items and then make your centerpieces! If you’re not interested in making your own centerpieces, you can hire a party planner to make them for you, or sometimes the organization itself sells them. You should also prepare a little card to place on each table that explains your centerpiece.
Many chesed organizations have their own centerpiece programs as well. Jewish Family Services has pre-packaged centerpieces that consist of a mini shopping cart filled with boxes or cans of food, wrapped in cellophane and ribbons. If you want flowers, that can be arranged with the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, or J-ADD. “Flowers by J-ADD” makes beautiful flower arrangements that provide vocational opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities while simultaneously giving others the opportunity to help support J-ADD. All proceeds go toward the wages of the employees and supporting J-ADD. Additionally, instead of disposing of the flowers after the event, they can be taken to local hospitals, shelters or nursing homes.
Donation centerpieces help you achieve a dual purpose: decorating your tables while simultaneously helping others. They also demonstrate your awareness and commitment to helping community institutions. Additionally, they are more fulfilling because when one does a chesed for someone else, they themselves end up feeling happier and more content/satisfied. And the fact that they often cost less than other floral or elaborate centerpieces doesn’t hurt, either!
Rosy White is a JLNJ summer intern and a rising senior at Reenas Bais Yaakov of Highland Park.