The holidays are here and while most kids are finalizing their letters to Santa, Elise Tong and Maddie Evers are in the midst of organizing their third holiday toy drive.
Tong (12) and Evers (11) are sixth graders at Mason Intermediate School. The longtime friends organized their first toy drive for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2017, and, with the help of their parents in 2018, Tong and Evers established their nonprofit, Giving Girls.
The duo has since organized numerous community service events for a number of high-profile nonprofits, including pet food and toy donations for the SPCA & Humane Society, a holiday toy drive for Dragonfly Foundation, blanket-making and donations to Warm Welcomes and backpack collection and school supply donations to Upspring. Tong and Evers have invited friends and local organizations to join them on their mission to spread kindness, serve the community and inspire giving.
Cincinnati Parent spoke to Tong and Evers about running a nonprofit, spreading kindness and what’s ahead for Giving Girls.
What inspired you two to start a nonprofit?
Elise Tong (ET): Giving Girls was inspired by a friend that had cancer. She was in the hospital a lot and we realized there are more kids out there just like her. We thought we could help them, and we realized we could do more than just help them; we could help many more people. So we decided to start a nonprofit.
Maddie Evers (ME): We watched a video online and decided that [by creating a nonprofit] we could help a lot of people and do something that would last a long time.
Your mission is spreading kindness – why is this so important?
ET: I think that being kind is so important to us because a lot of people are so caught up about things in their own lives instead of thinking about what someone else might be going through.
What are some of the ways Giving Girls works in the community?
ET: We try to help as many different types of problems, as much as possible. We have a [Facebook] page and we reach out to different businesses, friends and family, [to organize] things like bake sales and lemonade stands.
ME: We’ve helped Dragonfly Foundation and Matthew 25 Ministries; we’ve fed dinner to firefighters; we’ve donated cat and dog food to SPCA and the Humane Society; we’ve donated blankets to Warm Welcomes and school supplies to Upspring.
This year marks your third annual holiday toy drive – tell us about that.
ET: We plan to donate to the Dragonfly Foundation again this year. We are going to get most of our toys from a donation table that we are going to set up at Kroger (The duo is hosting a toy drive at the Mason Kroger on Terra Firma Drive Saturday, November 30). We will also be making scent sachets to sell as well as receiving donations from people and places that we know and having a bake sale in our neighborhood.
ME: We’re going to be doing a lot of bake sales and lemonade stands and we will use the money from that to buy toys or gift cards. My favorite thing about the toy drive is [seeing] the smiles on the kids’ faces.
How can Cincinnati parents — and kids — support what you’re doing?
ET: Cincinnati parents can follow our Facebook page and keep up with what we’re doing. They can spread the word to friends and family. They can just be kind in honor of Giving Girls.
What do you envision for the future of Giving Girls?
ET: We hope to eventually have our own workshop or building. We would love to have people who are designated as our helpers. We want to have a really large impact [outside Cincinnati]. We want people to be inspired by, and help people in honor of, Giving Girls.
As we enter the season of giving, let Giving Girls be an inspiration to us all! To learn more about Giving Girls, or to make a donation to the holiday toy drive, visit Giving Girls on Facebook at facebook.com/2givinggirls/.