Denver teen gives up birthday presents to raise $5,000 for rental assistance

Posted at 3:59 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 21:14:28-04

DENVER -- A 13-year-old is turning a milestone in her life into an opportunity to help those who cannot pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has had a subtle impact on Rena Brittan's life. Between virtually learning at school, summer camp getting cancelled and her Bat Mitzvah celebration mostly going virtual with the exception of a handful of close friends and family as well, this young Coloradan said she's finding purpose in the midst of sudden change.

"One of the expectations of being a Bat Mitzvah is to do a service project. Because of COVID-19 we were limited in the service projects we could choose from," Rena's mother, Dana Brittan, said.

Rena decided to forgo birthday presents and decided instead to raise money for those struggling during the pandemic to pay their rent and avoid eviction as part of her service project.

"I thought that was unfortunate and it would be on their record and be hard for them to get a new house in the future," Rena said.

She started a GoFundMe fundraiser with a $3,600 goal. It soon spread from family and friends to total strangers.

"It’s pretty crazy because a lot of the people now donating we don’t even know," Rena said.

Her fundraiser has raised nearly $5,000, well above her goal. The Colorado Apartment Association agreed to match her $5,000 donation.

"I wanted to do a project that could connect to coronavirus because a lot of people have lost their jobs during coronavirus... that makes it hard for people to pay basic needs, including rent," Rena said.

She will donate the money to the Resident Relief Foundation, a nonprofit that provides rental assistance.

"Not only do they provide rent subsidies but they also provide financial courses," Dana said.

Rena says she feels lucky both her parents' jobs were not impacted by COVID-19 and she wanted to do her part to help those who don't have it as easy.

"It showed me a lot that when you do something to help others, it makes you feel good," she said.