St. Cloud Man Celebrates His Birthday by Giving Back [PHOTOS]
ST. CLOUD -- Today (Wednesday) is Cortez Riley's 28th birthday and what better way for him to celebrate than giving back to the community.
Rather than throw a party or do something for himself, Riley decided to get his family and friends to volunteer as part of his Cortez's 28th Birthday Loving Thy Neighbor Extravaganza.
For three days, Riley planned different volunteering events leading up to his birthday today. He started the week on Monday by choosing a place close to his heart. When Riley and his family first moved to Minnesota in 2002 , they lived in Eden Valley. Being new to the state, his family didn't have much, so most of his Christmas gifts came from Place of Hope Ministries.
As his way of saying thank you, he gathered 20 volunteers with him and they volunteered from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
"We were cleaning, organizing, painting and we served meals to 150 of our homeless brothers and sisters. My favorite part was, giving these bags called the blessing bags. In those bags were basic necessities they could use daily and giving them those bags made me happy" says Riley.
Yesterday (Tuesday) they helped clean and organize things at Whitney Senior Center, and today Riley finished his celebration with I <3 Me walkathon starting at the Big Squeeze Cafe and ending at Lake George.
As his friends and family gathered at the Big Squeeze Cafe earlier, Riley helped register people to vote and encouraged others to take pictures with the hashtag #ILoveMeBecause, as part of his social media campaign to promote self-love.
Riley says because of his parent's heart and faith to help others, he has been touched by what they have done, that he too wants to continue serving the community.
"My mom and dad are where I get my drive and passion for loving my neighbor says, Riley. That's why I'm trying to work on myself and do these things"
Although it started as an effort to give back , Riley is now inspiring others like April Lloyd. Lloyd woke up this morning and read the paper, and there she saw Riley's story, so she decided to come meet him and support his cause.
"I don't know Cortez at all. I saw his story on the front page of the paper and I thought it was an awesome inspiring story says, Lloyd. So I decided we were randomly going to be doing the walk today".
Lloyd was so touched by Riley's story that she decided to give him a surprise at Summertime by George.
" I talked to the band Harper Court and we're going to bring him up on stage. The band's going to sing happy birthday to him" says Llyod.
Lloyd says Mayor Dave Kleis recognized Riley and his efforts to better the community at Summertime by George. She is grateful to have opened the paper this morning and be with Cortez today to support him.
Riley says he plans to do this every birthday and his goal is to get more people involved.
"My little sister is turning 17 on January 20th. She told me, she wants to do this for her birthday. So I'm going to help her and I am willing to help anyone that is wanting to do a similar thing for their birthday".
Riley plans to end his night by going to dinner and a movie with friends and family. To see his plans and photos visit his Facebook page.