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Birthday actions

"A woman's place is in the news!" That was a provocative concept when the Minnesota Women's Press was founded in the mid-1980s. This became our first tagline. We believed that sharing women's voices, opinions and stories would make a difference. In our teens we updated our tagline to "The newspaper of Minnesota's feminist voices-independent, women-owned," and then in our early 20s, "Independent news for independent women." In our mid-20s we adopted the audacious tagline: "Changing the universe through women's stories." Each stage of our life has taken on new strengths and challenges, but we've held true to the founding mission centered on the transformative power and importance of sharing women's stories.

April marks the 28th anniversary of the birth of the Women's Press. This ActNow column is in its eighth year. Its purpose is to suggest actions that any woman could do to make change in her own universe.

Consider these actions by people making change with birthday celebrations.

• Women's Press reader Amy Williams was fed up with what she termed "Nerf guns and plastic disposable toys" that her kids received in abundance at birthday parties-gifts that eventually ended up in landfills.

As a result, for two years Amy and Eric Williams' son has asked friends to bring books for his neighborhood school library as gifts at his birthday party. The kids could still wrap gifts, their son could still open gifts, they could all be excited about the gift-and the books could be donated to their library for all to read. The school even supplied a sticker for each book noting him as the donor. It was fun for all with a purpose. And they didn't add plastic to the landfill.

• Beth and Jon Commers' daughter worked to eliminate hunger by having her birthday party at Feed My Starving Children, where the kids packed food to send to starving children around the world. "This organization is amazing because it meets immediate and basic needs of children to ensure that they can count on having one solid meal a day," Beth Commers said. Birthday kids get a free T-shirt and an optional "Happy Birthday" serenade from their co-workers. Details about ages and adult-to-child ratios are on their website.

"I always write 'no presents please' on every invitation-much to [my kids'] chagrin," Commers said. "I firmly believe that the experience of celebrating with their friends is far more memorable than another toy."

• If animals are your kids' passion, an animal-themed party could include a tour of the Animal Humane Society at a cost of $1 per person, with a $15 minimum. Or they have a whole party package that includes the shelter tour, animal-themed games and crafts, a visit from a guest animal, gift bats for each guest, and a party room with decorations where you can bring your own party foods for $200.

• Other party ideas that MWP readers suggested were collecting new or used mittens and other winter outerwear to donate to schools where kids could not go outside for recess if they didn't have hats or boots. Kids have collected school supplies, toys and books for children's hospitals, planted a tree in a park, raked the leaves in an elder neighbor's yard and planted flowers for another.

• Another woman celebrating a later-in-life birthday was the giver of the gifts at her party. She wrapped and shared useful and sentimental things from her closets and cupboards, recycling what she needed to move out so her friends could appreciate and use them.

We believe in the power of small actions (and big actions) to make a difference in the universe. What's your action story of change? Share it with us! Send me your story, magnuson@womenspress.com

Feed My Starving Children www.fmsc.org
Animal Humane Society
Alexandra House


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