May 21, 2024 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Howard B. Mattlin Middle School
100 Washington Avenue
Cheryl Dender

Power of Belongings: Helping Teens Carry On  

Join us for a unique and impactful event on Tuesday, May 21st at the Howard B. Mattlin Middle School in Plainview at 6:00pm as the community comes together to help support Long Island teens in crisis.

Special Guest Speaker: New York Times bestselling author Regina Calcaterra, “Etched in Sand” 

The POB Chamber of Commerce is joining forces with the POB School District, the Mid-Island Y JCC and other community members to collect supplies for teens experiencing homelessness. The driving force behind this project is Birthday Wishes Long Island, a former chamber charity partner lead by director Jamie Rapfogel. At a recent event held by them, author Regina Calcaterra spoke about her traumatic experience with homelessness and the foster care system. Now a successful attorney and advocate for homeless youth, she emphasized that the teen population is often “unseen” and supplies for their comfort and success are minimal. This need sparked the “Belongings” event. (Read more about Regina and Birthday Wishes below).

How can you help? Scan the QR code or use the link for Birthday Wishes’ Amazon Wish list to donate items. They can be shipped directly to the school for volunteers to sort and pack. All donations are tax deductible.


The goal of the project is to fill 500 duffel bags with various supplies. These young people are often using garbage bags to carry what little they have to and from shelters or foster homes. The duffel bags will be filled with toiletry and activity kits (collected via the schools and the JCC) as well as other items that most average kids their age appreciate. Having their own bags and comforting supplies can also help boost their self esteem during a trying time in their young lives.

If you have any ideas or questions regarding this project, please contact Cheryl Dender: cheryl.dender@gmail.com

We appreciate your interest in this worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to join us for this inspiring evening.


From the Nassau Observer, February 27, 2024

Easing The Burden For New Mothers In Need

Many in attendance had read Regina’s heart-wrenching story of intermittent homelessness and foster care trauma told in her emotionally powerful memoir, Etched in Sand, written a decade ago. But hearing her relate it in person proved even more captivating and inspiring. Thanks to perceptive educators and other caring adults with whom she had the good fortune to cross paths, Regina thrived to become a successful attorney and now advocates for homeless youth. She is particularly passionate about supporting older foster children whom she noted often go “unseen.”

About Birthday Wishes LI: a 501c3 organization, its group of dedicated volunteers makes a difference in the lives of homeless children and their families by bringing them the joy of a birthday party. Birthday Wishes ensures that children are not denied this important rite of passage simply because of their living situation. “Our goal is to ensure that children experiencing the trauma of homelessness have the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays joyfully, surrounded by family, friends, and others who care,” Jamie said.

For more information, please visit birthdaywishes.org

—Submitted by Barbara Mars