As many young girls approach their birthday, they look forward to a party and the gifts they’re going to receive. As Tatum Byerson neared her sixth birthday, however, she began looking for a way to give back to her community.

One day, on her way to Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, Tatum saw some homeless people and wanted to know how she could help. She asked her mom some questions, and they began to put a plan in place.

“She was ambitious. She picked two separate fundraisers, one of which was The Birthday Party Project,” said Danielle Byerson, Tatum’s mother.

“The Birthday Party Project is a national organization’s effort to host birthday parties for homeless youths, and since it was rooted in her sixth birthday, she was like, ‘I want to do this too,’” Danielle said.

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A Baltimore native, Tatum wanted to assist a foundation rooted in her hometown. That way she could see the fruits of her labor. She picked Manna House in East Baltimore, and the family established a GoFundMe account.

Tatum Byerson steps out of the car with her mother, Danielle Byerson, to donate goods to Manna House on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
Tatum Byerson steps out of the car with her mother, Danielle Byerson, to donate goods to Manna House on Wednesday. (Dylan Thiessen/The Baltimore Banner)

“We started with $500 each and they completely obliterated that goal in two hours, and then we upped it a little bit and kept upping and that’s how we got to $2,000 for Manna House,” Danielle said.

The family raised $3,600 in total for both foundations, and gifted Manna House an additional $400.

“My wife kept giving me play by play, and she’s like, ‘We exceeded it.’ I’m like, ‘Go up.’ We exceeded it, then [I said] ‘Go up,’” said Terrence Byerson Jr., Tatum’s father.

“For us, that’s the major thing about it. It’s a blessing that we’re able to help her give back at such a young age,” he added.

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On Wednesday, the Byersons arrived at Manna House with a van full of toiletries. The bags included toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and deodorant, among other things.

It took multiple carts to unload everything, and Tatum even helped carry some of the bags in. Asked how she felt about donating to the homeless shelters, Tatum couldn’t contain her excitement.

Tatum Byerson loads a bag of goods for donation into a shopping cart. (Dylan Thiessen/The Baltimore Banner)

“It makes me feel happy! Kids should always help others and make sure they’re blessings to others and be pretty good to others. Be nice.”

Manna House is expanding its campus and adding new facilities to provide the best care possible to the homeless people it serves. The group provides assistance to homeless and poor people, including daily meals, showers and health care.

“We expanded into the next few houses over there,” said Patty Feick, case manager for Manna House, referring to nearby construction. “We put in a large commercial kitchen and expanded our dining room, so now it’s twice its size.”

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“When they sign up to take a shower, we’ll be giving them toiletries so they feel clean and fresh and that’s real important to how they feel about themselves, so I say thank you,” Feick told Tatum, her parents and her grandmother after the drop-off.

Tatum does not plan to stop her charitable efforts there. She has even bigger ideas for her seventh birthday.

“I’m going to give more money to the homeless. I’m going to give $6,000 … $600,052,” she said, as those gathered broke into laughter.

David is from Laurel, Maryland and a recent graduate of Morgan State University. He has previously worked for WEAA 88.9, The Afro-American, and the Maryland State Senate among others. David enjoys telling the stories of those who are unable to tell their own, and seeks to bring issues to light that are prevalent in the surrounding communities.

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