Almanac

Community - April 17, 2013

Birthday gifts for Menlo Park girl, age 7, help the homeless

by Jane Knoerle

Kayla Virag of Menlo Park recently celebrated her seventh birthday with a party at San Mateo Gymnastics. Instead of gaily wrapped presents, 30 little guests brought cash donations. The money raised was enough to pay for two of the dinners for approximately 80 homeless guests that Hearts for Homeless, a program connected with Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, puts on every month at the church.

How does a 7-year-old who attends Laurel School learn or care about the homeless in an affluent community like Menlo Park? For one thing, her parents, Mike and Stephanie Virag, are involved with Hotel de Zink, a program where 15 homeless people registered with InnVision Shelter Network have dinner, shelter and breakfast provided 90 days at a time.

Hotel de Zinc works with 12 local faith communities, with each hosting one month of the year.

Hearts for Homeless ministry at Menlo Park Presbyterian coordinates dinner, shelter and breakfast for the month of November. Hearts for Homeless also provides a dinner and bingo evening for up to 80 homeless guests on the last Saturday of each month.

On March 30 Kayla came to the dinner with her mom to present the donation. She also had a great time calling out all the Bingo numbers.

"She is an example of the power of youth to change society for the better," says Michele Santilhano of Hearts for Homeless.

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