Chapel Hill Mother and Son Assemble Birthday Kits for PORCH Families 


Michelle Sheran-Andrews was looking for a summer service project that she could tackle with her son Luke, a rising freshman at Chapel Hill High School. 

After researching, they decided to focus on food insecurity. They uncovered several project ideas online, but one stood out: assembling birthday celebration boxes for families who otherwise might not have the resources for a cake, candles, and more. 

“Since Luke was young, he has been into birthdays,” Michelle says. “He always wants to make them special for everybody.” 

They set up a GoFundMe, shared it with family and close friends, and raised about $300. 

Then, they shopped for the items: birthday cards, paper plates, napkins, balloons, a cake mix, a can of icing, sprinkles, and candles. The contents fit nicely inside a disposable cake pan with a lid. 

Michelle and Luke dropped off 20 kits to PORCH in August, and they were extremely well received by the families who were randomly selected.  

One Food for Families participant shared that her birthday was only a couple of days away, so the timing couldn’t have been better. A Neighborhood Coordinator was so inspired that she recruited children in her neighborhood to help her assemble 20 boxes for the September PORCH distribution. 

Michelle, a teaching professor of economics at UNC, hopes to work on similar projects with her children – including 12-year-old daughter Megan – in the future. 

“I have a heart for service and always wanted to be more involved,” she says. “My kids are the same way. I really wanted to find something we could do together. … This is an easy one for kids to get behind because it’s about celebrating birthdays.” 

Michelle says that, in hindsight, she would have shopped at more stores to find the best prices on certain items. She also wishes she could have included a can of Sprite, which can be used to make the cake mix if someone doesn’t have oil or eggs. 

“This was a fun activity for sure,” she says. “It wasn’t too hard to do. And I am so happy they were well received.”