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Birthday Wishes Ministry Spreads Joy Year-Round!

During the holiday season, so many of us become aware of the need to help others who are less fortunate. Children’s causes are especially prevalent in December, with reminders that tug at our heartstrings everywhere we go — Toys for Tots at the doctors’ office, giving trees at church, and gift donation tags at retail outlets. There are so many great opportunities to help Santa fulfill all those Christmas wish lists. But many kids need our help for another big occasion that’s often overlooked, perhaps because it is one that occurs every day of the year. Sometimes, families struggling financially can’t afford to buy presents their child’s birthday. Thanks to Jill Leach, underprivileged kids in Brunswick County are never overlooked, but rather celebrated, with birthday gifts from her ministry on their own special day.  Birthday Wishes Ministry is an organization that exists to help children, who may not have the opportunity otherwise, have a very happy birthday.

It’s heartwarming to know that we can bring a smile to a child’s face at Christmastime by dropping a few toys into a collection box or donating money to a holiday charity.  Winding River resident Jill Leach couldn’t agree more.  In fact, she and her husband did that kind of thing for many years.

“My husband and I have always adopted a needy family for Christmas, even before we moved to NC.”

The Leaches, who both retired early from careers in the pharmaceutical industry, moved from Danbury, Connecticut to North Carolina about 12 years ago. Having vacationed for many years at Jill’s parents’ home in Calabash, they were, like so many of us, lulled south by the scenic coastal lifestyle.   

A few years ago, Jill recounts, she was helping one particular family in Brunswick County purchase gifts for the kids at Christmastime, and was troubled when the young mother asked if she could hold one gift back. Her son’s birthday was coming up but she didn’t have enough money to pay her rent, so buying him birthday gifts was not an option. Touched by that moving encounter, Jill says she felt a calling from God to create the Birthday Wishes Ministry as a way to bring joy to children on their own special day.

“When we bless others, God takes care of our needs” Jill believes.

Jill founded Birthday Wishes Ministry (BWM) in 2021 with a desire “to provide birthday gifts to underprivileged children.”  Today, she serves as president of the nonprofit, with good friend Deb Edwards serving as vice president.  A seven-member board of directors guides the organization’s growing mission, carried out by an army of kind-hearted volunteers who have a soft spot for children.

In the first year of operation, the grass roots organization was able to purchase gifts for 75 children, all identified through one elementary school. In 2022, Birthday Wishes gave gifts to 500 kids in nine Brunswick County schools.  As the charity grew, the mission evolved “to support financially challenged families by providing educational birthday gifts to Brunswick County children.”

In July of 2023, BWM formed a partnership with Brunswick Family Assistance (BFA) to broaden their reach and facilitate connections with families who receive financial help from the County for critical services.  BFA now gives Birthday Wishes vouchers to families who have a child between the ages of 5-12 with an upcoming birthday.  The voucher can be redeemed with BWM volunteers who are on site monthly.  Birthday gifts are specific to each age group, and the same gift is given to boys and girls.  Each child receives some type of learning game that can be played alone or with others.

Going forward, the ministry expects to reach 800 children in 2024 through their affiliation with BFA.  Although the ministry currently targets elementary and middle school children, Jill says the goal is to expand their reach to all infants through 14-year-olds registered with the Brunswick Family Assistance program.  Alarmingly, that’s approximately 1,800 kids.  For now, though, if a special need arises, BWM makes sure they accommodate it.

“No child will ever be turned down for a gift,” Jill states emphatically.

What started out as one woman’s generosity has developed into an organization that requires significant funding. Birthday Wishes Ministry works tirelessly to raise money through donations, grants, sponsorships, and fundraisers.

In 2022 BWM participated in the Holden Beach “Festival at the Sea,” selling raffle tickets for artwork donated by a local artist and raising $2,000 for the ministry.  In the spring of 2023 volunteers organized a highly successful fundraising event called the “Ladies Spring Tea Party.” Ticket sales, a silent auction, games and shopping at that gala generated $6,400 for Birthday Wishes!

In May of 2023, BWM opened a retail boutique space called Another Woman’s Treasures at Crossroads Gathering Place, on Long Beach Road in Oak Island.  Sales have been strong and profits go straight to the charity.

In August of 2023, BWM received a $1,000 Neighborhood Grant from The Starbucks Foundation, in recognition of their impact in Brunswick County.  The award supports grass-roots, community-led organizations that help uplift their neighbors.  Birthday Wishes has received additional grants from BEMC, Focus Broadband, and the St. James Service Club.

As word of the feel-good ministry spread and its reach expanded, the need for help became imperative.  Today, there are about 50 Birthday Wishes volunteers, mainly residents of Winding River. They gather regularly to make homemade birthday cards for every child in the Birthday Wishes program and to wrap all those presents. Volunteers help with monthly gift distribution at the BFA facility in Bolivia, help with fundraising efforts, and help sort and deliver donations of inventory for the Oak Island boutique.

“We are always looking for more volunteers and they can be from anywhere,” says Jill.

“There are many other ways to get involved, besides volunteering,” Jill continued. “You can donate money or become a sponsor, or you can donate slightly used ladies accessories for our retail boutique.  You can also purchase gifts for kids by using the Amazon Birthday Wish List link on our website. The gifts are delivered right to the agency.”

Birthday Wishes Ministry is a feel-good charity that provides a much-needed service every day of the year. The organization serves an important role in providing not just gifts, but hope and happiness to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Children struggling through poverty deserve to feel special every day, and especially on their birthdays!

For more information about how you can help Birthday Wishes Ministry, visit or contact Jill Leach by phone at -910-712-2356 or email at


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