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Thursday, 25 April 2013 11:55

Party it Forward: Local Sixth Grader Making a Difference

By Brian Cremo | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — This past holiday season, Maple Avenue Middle School student Ella Payer found herself thinking, “Why is everyone just dropping gifts off for Christmas? Why not make it a year round thing?”

That simple idea catapulted the 12-year-old sixth grader to take action by teaming up with Bo Goliber, Coordinator of Development at Franklin Community Center (FCC), around the time of Ella’s birthday in January. As a prior Greenfield Elementary student, Ella saw the FCC’s presence when Project Lift met up after school and felt that Goliber was the one to brainstorm ideas with.

Her original idea: to ask her friends to donate birthday gifts to local kids in need instead of buying Ella anything for her own birthday party. 

“Ella is (passionate) definitely,” said Goliber, who says she has seen youth involvement in community service grow over the last couple years. “It’s not as if no one has ever donated gifts before, but what’s unique about Ella is that she wanted to take it one step further. She realized if she was willing to give up birthday gifts, there are probably other kids who would too. Her creativity and willingness to want to keep it happening, she was genuinely excited when she saw the stuff the kids bought.”

After the success of her birthday party donations, the concept further developed into the creation of an online wish list, which can be found on the FCC website at www.franklincommunitycenter.org. This list specifically identifies the needs of the local kids helped by the FCC and is updated based on the time of year. It will also help the small facility better organize and control an inventory of products that are needed most.

“It’s kind of a simple thing,” said Ella’s mother, Beth. “I think the biggest trick was to get Franklin Community Center what they needed. Sometimes people donate stuff that isn’t truly the most useful thing. So Ella had this idea of the wish list that they can change at any time.”

If someone wants hosts a similar “Celebrations” program party in the future,  they can set up a time on the first and third Thursday of the month from 3:30–4 p.m. to drop off the gifts to Goliber and the FCC.

Ella, who is now the lone official Junior Ambassador at the FCC, will also be there to help receive and sort gifts that are brought in by people who have hosted other donation parties. 

“The idea is once someone has a party, they can come be a junior ambassador as well and also help receive, so it kind of goes on after that,” Ella said.

The first drop-off was Thursday, April 25, as a local Girl Scout group became the first to schedule a party and drop off gifts. There are already two parties scheduled for drop-off by two elementary aged girls in May.

Ella has also helped further advertise the effort by creating an Instagram called “celebratewithfranklin.” 

Ella said she caught the giving spirit after she went to a food drive with her friend, Kate. Since then she has just been looking for ways to help, something her mother has noticed and taken to heart.

“I think it’s nice when you see that moment when they actually get that helping feels great,” Beth said. “When that clicks, it’s something that you can easily talk about, but when you see it in their eyes it actually can feel better.”

Ella’s “party it forward” philosophy for kids is something she hopes to continue for years to come.

Many of the donated items will go to Project Lift (first through fifth grade), but the new program is not limiting themselves to just being facilitators for those age groups. Also, if any one child under the age of 17 assigns a drop-off day, that host will also receive a $5 gift card from Plum Dandy and a thank you poem for their effort to help.

 “The way we look at it, the fact that we already have three parties, that’s better than nothing,” Goliber said. “So it’s already a success as far as I’m concerned.”

For anyone wishing to host a party, they can contact the FCC by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (518) 587-9826.

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