For over 30 years, Covenant House New Orleans has cared for homeless and highly at-risk youth, helping them achieve stability and build independence. It provides comprehensive residential and supportive services to youth (ages 16 to 22), including mothers and their children. Covenant House is a safe haven where at-risk youth can take advantage of professional care and services to move their lives in a positive direction.
Most young people who come to Covenant House have never experienced healthy family time, and many residents have never had what we think of as a “typical birthday party.” Celebrating birthdays with friends is a time to forget about the strains and stresses life and simply enjoy feeling special.
JLNO members plan and host monthly birthday celebrations for Covenant House residents. This includes developing the theme for each party, complete with party decorations, birthday cake and ice cream, and a small gift for each resident. One evening a month, members participate in the birthday celebrations in the Covenant House cafeteria. About 50 residents attend, and between 5 and 8 (both youth and children) have a birthday each month. JLNO members serve cake, take pictures, interact with guests, and help everyone have a good time. By hosting monthly birthday celebrations, JLNO volunteers share joy and love with these young residents and learn of their resiliency and promise.
Role models from JLNO make a lasting impression on Covenant House residents and teach them appropriate behavior in community and social settings. The real and measurable impact of this project are improved behavioral health (increased interpersonal/relationship skills and appropriate expressive skills). The benefits are evident as formerly at-risk youth build self-confidence and self-esteem while transitioning to independent lives filled with hope.