Baskets Full of Love

by Noella Noelophile®room filled with Easter baskets

“I was, like, so shocked when I walked in and there were all these baskets.  I had no clue (it was so big).”

The speaker was a first-time volunteer at Day Two of Operation Easter Basket’s thirteenth annual event, in Long Beach.

And she was discovering a community of givingvolunteers assemble Easter basketsSince 9:00 that morning, volunteers had been at work at Bayshore Church, in Belmont Shore.Led by Long Beach “Chief Inspiration Officer” and community activist Justin Rudd, participants were creating Easter baskets for at-risk youth, ages newborn to sixteen years.  Individual volunteers and community groups worked together, progressing from various “assembly stations” to wrapping completed baskets in cellophane.

At the same time, donations were coming in–of both completed Easter baskets and supplies.

Operation Easter Basket had a goal of 2,600 baskets, by 4:00 that afternoon. sign listing number of baskets each organization receivesNumerous nonprofit agencies were scheduled to come by to pick up the baskets.  These would be distributed to  economically-disadvantaged kids at Easter parties and special events over the weekend.

Now, when we think, “Easter basket”, most of us have mental images of chocolate rabbits and marshmallow chicks.  But Justin, who started Operation Easter Basket in 2005, describes these more accurately as “essentials-filled baskets”.bucket with shampoo and body washTo make one, volunteers start with personal-hygiene essentials;

art supplies added to bucketAdd wearables, art supplies and school supplies;doll in Easter basketAnd then, put in the fun stuff.  (And of course, include candy.)

Perhaps the best part of Operation Easter Basket is getting to help load up the trucks for delivery.   Boys and Girls’ Club, Christian Outreach in Action and Long Beach Rescue Mission were among the organizations picking up baskets on Friday.

“Our biggest gives are happening at 3:30 and 3:45 today,” Justin commented.  “Long Beach Rescue Mission has a big party.  They’ll give out 1,200 baskets.”

(Of those, several hundred would be Operation Easter Basket donations.  Justin said the biggest group would be Boys’ and Girls’ Club, receiving 450 donated baskets.)volunteers place ahampoo and body wash on the tableThroughout the day, people were replenishing supplies.  New arrivals brought bags of body wash and shampoo–which volunteers put into baskets immediately.  Pencils, pens and other art supplies were equally popular.

And the goal was in sight.

“Volunteers, anyone want to guess what we’re at right now?” called Jim “Woody” Woods.  “2,350!”

The clock read 12:25 pm.Easter baskets along the wallNow, Operation Easter Basket had surpassed its 2015 goal of 2,379 by more than a hundred baskets.  In 2016, they came close to their goal of 2,600 baskets, with a final figure of 2,407.

Easter 2017 was about to outpace both.Long Beach Chief Inspiration Officer Justin Rudd with Easter baskets“This year, we got two huge donations (of supplies) that equaled twenty thousand dollars,” Justin said.  “And we got a volunteer that wanted to sponsor the candy in honor of her grandmother.”

Volunteers kept working–and alerting followers on their social media, if supplies ran low.  volunteers take baskets to waiting truckA  number of “basket brigades” happened, as organizations sent representatives to pick up their baskets..

Then, at 1:57, Woody made the announcement.  “The goal is 2,600 baskets–right now, we’re at 2,593!”  The room erupted in applause.

Two hours later, a preliminary count showed that Operation Easter Basket 2017 had a total of 2,616 baskets–their best total in their thirteen years. But that wasn’t the final number.

By email, Justin told volunteers on Saturday evening that Operation Easter Basket created and distributed 2,959 Easter baskets for economically disadvantaged kids!Easter baskets in foreground as volunteers workSo, a very Happy Easter!  And thank you to Justin Rudd and “Operation Easter Basket” for an inspiring start to Easter weekend!  Long Beach is a great community in which to get to celebrate Easter–or any other holiday.