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As a parent, it’s never too early to teach the value of sharing. Leading up to the holiday season, Ava and Chip Setzer pondered what to do for their son Dean’s 3rd birthday, which happens to fall on the day after Christmas. Ava started to wonder how she and Chip could make this birthday special for Dean. After receiving an abundance of toys over the holidays, what could they give him that he didn’t already receive?

Birthday fundraisers have become a growing trend in the past few years as many online platforms have streamlined the process.  Ava and Chip had just recently participated in a birthday fundraiser for an 8-year-old neighbor, which sparked a beautiful idea—what if we made this a tradition for our son? They have seen how that tradition has brought that family closer together, instilling pride, encouraging sharing and teaching the family to give back to the community through raising awareness and funding for a cause they care about deeply.

“What kind of tiny human do I want to raise?” Ava asked. “I want to raise one that gives back to the community and that’s always been something that’s important to me. In order to do that, you have to show them how it works, you have to model behavior for him. If we start that conversation at a very early age, then they know about all these kinds of things early – through your own man power, through your dollars, you can make a difference.”

Little Dean has a clear passion for construction. His favorite toys are his tools, hard hat and building blocks, so choosing Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East felt like a clear fit for Ava and Chip. From there, Ava reached out to Habitat to see how she could make this idea a reality.

“It was the perfect fit,” Ava, said. “Here in Portland, in today’s day and age, I can’t think of a more important organization. We see the work you do every day. Being able to have a local organization where you can see the difference is huge.”

With one email asking for donations, they received responses from all over the world, reaching as far as Australia. They were overjoyed by the public’s response; everyone wanted to have a part in Dean’s birthday. And in just two months’ time, Dean and his parents raised over $700 – enough to buy a furnace and insulation to keep a family warm.

“Toys are great, getting things is fun, and parties are fantastic,” Ava, said. “But wouldn’t it be nice to give your birthday back to someone or something else?”

In collaboration with Habitat, Ava, Chip and Dean planned a visit to our newest construction site, Cully Place, for a special experience, Dean got to meet a real life construction worker at the gates of the construction site. Site Supervisor Nathan Lommasson, presented Dean with his very own big boy hard hat, tool belt and staff pin, encouraging 3 year old to follow his dreams and to come back to volunteer when he turns 16.

Ava and Chip said they’re teaching Dean to be helpful and, at this age, being helpful is sharing. For Dean to share his birthday with Habitat means more Portlanders get to receive the gift of homeownership; with one small act, a whole community is positively impacted.

While Ava says they’re just your average three-person family wanting to make a difference in their community, the power of their generosity reaches far beyond that.

We’re so thankful for Dean, Ava, Chip, and everyone who donated through his birthday fundraiser! Thank you for making affordable homeownership a possibility for more families in our city.

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