For some, birthdays mean cake and presents, but for Milissa Fortier, it’s an opportunity to practice generosity.

The Scarborough, Ontario resident celebrated her 52nd birthday in October with an auction in the basement of her home church, Wideman Mennonite Church, raising approximately $10,000 for MCC’s water and education projects.

Over the last 15 years she’s asked her friends and family members to donate auction items, including theatre tickets, jewelry, baked goods, quilts and photography sessions – all “for the children,” as Fortier says.

Her efforts have paid off. She estimates she's helped raise more than $70,000 for MCC.

Milissa Fortier estimates she's helped raise about $70,000 for MCC through birthday auctions.Photo submitted by Milissa Fortier

Originally from the Philippines, Fortier was raised in a home where her parents practiced and taught generosity.

“My mom’s dream was to have a halfway house for children who are either orphans or are separated from their parents to give them a place to stay. That stuck in my head. She wasn’t able to materialize that because she had a stroke and was bedridden for 15 years,” Fortier explains.

She adds: “Because of my humble beginnings with my family back home, we were taught and shown how to be giving.”

That’s how her birthday auctions came to be.

“I thought, my mom wasn’t able to complete her dream. But I can do that for her,” Fortier says. She decided her birthdays could become about more than just her.

Milissa Fortier auctioned off quilt squares in support of MCC. Eventually the quilt will be sewed by members of her home church and donated to the MCC relief sale in Toronto.Photo submitted by Milissa Fortier

One of her latest projects is auctioning off quilt squares, which people from her church eventually quilt together and auction off at the Toronto MCC relief sale.

“Every year it’s increased, and I added more things and experiences to auction off. I ended up involving my entire church,” she says.

Fortier’s vision is contagious. She says one of her friends decided to do something similar for her 40th birthday.

She sees her spiritual gift as being a conduit for generosity.

Some of the items that were auctioned off at Milissa Fortier's birthday auction in support of MCC projects.Photo submitted by Milissa Fortier

“There are other people whose role it is to be in the field, to travel to the countries that need assistance, but I see myself as a conduit. It’s a community effort that’s enticing people to be generous. This is a gift that God gave me,” she says.

Throughout her life, Fortier has learned that every little bit counts. That’s the kind of mentality she wants to spread.

You don't have to have a lot to be able to give a lot." - Milissa Fortier

“You don’t need to have a lot to be able to give a lot. Giving is not about what your income bracket is with Canada Revenue, but your willingness and showing one’s heart as followers of Christ,” she says. “My objective is to provide awareness that every donation is important.”

To view Fortier's giving registry, which has been active since 2012, click here

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