A person only turns 40 once in their lifetime, so plans were in place for months to make sure Everett’s Karina Sousa had a tremendous birthday celebration for her 40th.
As it turned out, COVID-19 deflated all of those plans, but what ended up happening last weekend was an even better birthday celebration than Sousa could have ever expected.
In fact, it was a birthday that became more about helping those in need, and less about celebrating her age milestone.
“It was different, but it was so good,” she said this week. “It has made me feel so good and it was really better than a big birthday party. It’s just good to help people.”
What Sousa did was help to feed more than 70 families with food baskets that she compiled through donations in her front yard from friends, neighbors and strangers. Though still going to work, she said she has been making masks in her free time and giving them to hospitals and first-responders since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March.
However, once her birthday rolled around, and her party had to be cancelled, she decided to help others as a celebration of her big day. Putting a banner sign out in her yard, she asked everyone passing by to help her celebrate her 40th birthday by giving a donation of food in exchange for a home-made mask. Additionally, she spread the word to family and friends and neighbors too, and what she got was a great birthday surprise.
“I always celebrate my birthday really big and being my 40th, I planned to do this one really big and have a party and friends over,” she said. “I found out I couldn’t do that so I decided to celebrate by helping people…So many people dropped off food and others gave donations to get food. My friends came to my house and did a car parade and honked their horns for my birthday. Then they all dropped off baskets of food as my present. It’s awesome. I feel blessed to be able to help others as I celebrate.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin had seen the sign, and said he also dropped by to wish Sousa a happy birthday and to contribute to the food basket drive.
“On Saturday it was a true honor to stop and thank a true community hero,” he said. “The dedication Karina showed by putting the needs of others first truly showed the selfless acts done during these unthinkable times. A lot is said about individuals that do things when no one is paying attention rather than when the lights are on. This is a great way to celebrate a milestone.”
Sousa, who said she is originally from Brazil, said she has seen so many friends and family members who have lost their jobs. She knows people with kids who are no longer working and struggling to put food on their tables. With that motivation, she prepared about 65 baskets of food two weeks ago for those in need. One week ago, she gathered about 60 baskets.
But on her birthday last Sunday, she was able to distribute 70 baskets of food to those in need, and she still has more if others would need the help.
“Everything is so scary,” she said. “We don’t know what is going to happen the next day. I know a lot of friends without work and they have kids too. I felt so bad I had to do something. I needed to do something good and it helped teach my kids that doing something good was more important.”