Burnsville businesses helping 7-year-old with donations for the homeless
BY Michael Ricci - sun newspapers
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:51 AM CST
Not many young children would
forego birthday presents for a lot of towels, but one south metro
7-year-old is exhibiting the power of generosity, so much so that he has
enlisted the help of several businesses in his effort.
Seven-year-old Shrey Pothini of Savage first began helping
children of Avenue for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis when he was about
to turn 4 years old, substituting birthday presents for new towels to
donate. Last year, he collected nearly 120, but this year his efforts
have been amped up by two Burnsville businesses, as well as a Savage
business, that are more than willing to join the cause.
for Homeless Youth's mission is to provide emergency shelter, short-term
housing and support services for homeless youth in a safe and nurturing
The homeless shelter is also where Seema Pothini, Shrey's mother, volunteers time and serves on its board.
"Two months before he turned 4, he came to an event there," Seema said. "He had a tour of the shelter."
to Seema, Shrey had a good time playing with other youths at the
shelter, but even through casual observation the young child noticed
that life was different for these kids.
"When I showed him the
rooms, it really affected him," Seema said. "Shrey saw the drastic
difference between their rooms and what he has."
the difficulty the kids faced on a daily basis, Shrey inquired about the
shelter, asking why they did not have all the toys and other simple
pleasures that he enjoyed.
Seema responded by explaining they just needed the essentials.
"I thought, 'They are not like me,'" Shrey said. "I have a lot of stuff, and they don't."
According to Seema, this is what got Shrey started on his quest to
help the youths at the shelter, prompting her to begin looking online at
the shelter's website to see what items were needed.
"They had almost over 100 things they needed," Seema said. "So he decided for his birthday he would ask people to bring towels."
thought their stuff was more important, so I told my mom I did not want
any presents at all," Shrey said. "She was very impressed because she
knows how much I love the presents, but I said that they needed [the
Seema held her son's fourth birthday party at their
home, but when other children brought presents in addition to the towels
Shrey had requested, he expressed his objection.
"The next year in his invitations, he underlined 'no presents,'" Seema said.
this time, Shrey has been substituting towels in place of presents for
himself and donating the towels to the children at Avenue for Homeless
According to Seema, last year she and Shrey had the idea of contacting businesses to help.
contacted Family Vision Clinic in Savage," Seema said. "I had told them
about the donation drive, and the owner there said he would love to
The owner asked Seema and Shrey if her business could be a
drop-off location. Through FVC, the drive generated numerous donations,
gathering nearly 120 towels and a quilt handmade by clinic employees.
saw the power of enlisting the help of businesses," Seema said, adding
that this year he wishes to get enough towels, along with the addition
of body wash, to last the shelter for one year.
Shrey decided to really make an effort to increase the number of
donations to the shelter, using his birthday as a donation day.
used to have his birthday celebrations at Savage City Hall with no
charge, but a recently implemented room fee policy eliminated the city
hall as an option for hosting the event.
After thinking about
possible locations to hold his birthday party, Shrey remembered an IGM
Gymnastics booth this past summer that had been set up during Dan Patch
Days, an annual citywide celebration in Savage.
"He said that
maybe we should contact them," Seema said of the Burnsville business.
"He was adamant about my checking, so I sent an email to the owner
explaining what Shrey does."
The owner, Irina Kim, wrote back
telling Seema that she would love to host the donation drive, or Shrey's
birthday this month, as well as serving as a drop-off site.
"They were excited about the work he was doing," Seema said of IGM staff.
Shrey, as grateful as he is for the donation by IGM, felt there was
more that could be done. Living in Savage but often traveling through
Burnsville and other south metro communities, the young man had another
"He was home sick one day and said, 'Mom, let's call Klein
Bank,'" Seema said. "He called and asked who he would speak with, and
they connected him with the branch manager for all of the south of the
That person's name was David Esposito, and he - like many others - was quite taken with Shrey's drive and determination.
was the first time that I believe I have ever received a call in the
15-18 years of banking ... from a 7-year-old calling to talk to me about
donating to a group such as Avenues," he said. "From that perspective
it absolutely amazed me."
Esposito added that it was a delight
speaking with Shrey and his mother to see what Klein Bank branches could
do. Before he knew it, Shrey had convinced the retail banking sales
manager to join in the drive.
"At our locations for Klein Banks
south of the river ... we are donation drop-off spots where we have a
table set up," Esposito said. "Then we're having our staffs in our
particular offices get the word out through our teller lines and through
interactions with our customers and non-customers."
added that it just seemed fitting to be able to get the work out as much
as humanly possible to all of the bank's customers who enjoy helping
those who are less fortunate.
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IGM Gymnastics 14305 Southcross Dr W, Suite 120, Burnsville, MN 55306 952.898.3889