Donated Easter baskets from Shepherd's Staff focus on holy meaning

More than 600 given away by outreach center to share religious message

April 02, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Shepherd's Staff routinely gives away food, household goods, clothing and school supplies, but the outreach center added Easter baskets to its distribution list this week.

The center sent letters to 50 churches last month asking for "spiritual Easter baskets," to reflect the true meaning of the holy day. Word of the project quickly spread to service clubs, schools and other organizations.

By midweek, the center had received nearly 600 baskets, and donations were still arriving at the center on Carroll Street in Westminster.

"This is a wonderful idea," said Bonnie Mann, a member of Krider's United Church of Christ, which donated several baskets. "The response is indicative of how this community bands together to provide help. So many people just don't have the extra money to do this."

Yesterday, students from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center delivered 150 bunny bags -- handmade fabric sacks they designed and stitched together with rabbit faces and ears and a large felt carrot added. Each bag brimmed with donations collected at the school.

"People are hungry to do things like this," said Kathy Brown, director of Shepherd's Staff.

Brown gave several bunny bags to the Westminster Nursing and Convalescent Center.

She encouraged visitors to look through shelves filled with colorful baskets of wicker, plastic, even decorated cardboard. Contents included puzzles, small toys, coloring books and crayons.

Bibs, crocheted caps and sweaters and talcum powder went into baby baskets, like the one given to 7-month-old Haley Brightful, who was taken to the center by Erin Sabo, her baby sitter. Sabo of Union Bridge left with Haley's basket and five for her own children.

"I just started back to work, and filling baskets would be hard for me to do," Sabo said. "It is not just the cost of everything, but the time."

Her selections had bubbles, clay, sandbox toys, even a child-sized fishing pole.

"I am all fixed up," she said. "One even came in a bucket the kids can use afterwards."

Ruth Burkett of Westminster placed a basket in a large plastic bag, hoping to surprise her 4-year-old granddaughter with it Sunday.

"Her father is out of work now, and there's no money for this," said Burkett.

Kaitlyn Iser, 18 months, chose her own basket and another for her 4-year-old sister.

"I came here for another reason, but it was great to get the baskets," said her mother, Rebecca Iser of Union Bridge.

Each basket had religious literature, and many had crosses woven from palm leaves, a traditional Easter symbol.

"Every one had something about God and less candy," said Brown. "We need to bring the meaning of Easter to people who are not aware and think that Easter is simply the Easter bunny."

Many baskets had children's Bible stories and books with an Easter theme.

"I want that religious piece to go home where I am hoping it will be read to children," said Brown. "I don't care how many other baskets full of candy are at home. This one may be the conduit that opens a small window."

Brown plans to distribute any remaining baskets at noon today at Westminster United Methodist Church, 165 E. Main St.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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