Celebrate the holiday by making an extra Easter basket and donating it to one of your local organizations.

We normally think of donating gifts and supplies around the winter holidays (like organizing a food drive to make a Thanksgiving meal or participating in a Toys for Tots program at Christmas) but shelters and organizations gather gifts for their families year-round. Last spring I had a few extra Easter baskets, so I filled them with small goodies and dropped them off at a local shelter. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who thought this was a great idea: Shelters and organizations around the country actually collect Easter baskets to give out to families in need. I chatted with Lisa Earles, the executive director of Clive Community Services in Clive, Iowa, about how you can participate in your area.

felt easter basket with goodies
Credit: Ryan Liebe

Earles’ first suggestion is to contact your local shelter or food pantry to see if they have an existing program you can participate in. If not, ask if they’ll accept extra baskets and find out what their clients’ biggest needs are. For their Easter basket program, Earles discovered that an actual Easter basket isn’t always the best way to go. “Instead of presenting it in an Easter basket, we give our items away in a reusable storage bin,” Earles says. “That way they're still cute and colorful but also can be easily repurposed by the family.” 

Once you have your bin, you’re ready for the fun part: Filling your Easter basket. Be sure to ask what age ranges you’re shopping for, so you can choose the best Easter basket fillers for each age. And be sure to fill your bins or baskets with new items: “While secondhand items are great donations, for special projects like this, we encourage people to donate new items, such as books and toys,” Earles says. “Families that visit social services agencies don't get a lot of new things, so that makes it more special.”

Also, keep in mind that a mountain of Easter candy probably isn’t the best option. Earles suggests packs of new socks and underwear (or diapers and wipes as appropriate), a book, a small toy, and a healthy snack. When you’re shopping for toys to donate, she recommends people to look for ones that encourage group play or getting outside, like a deck of cards, a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, or bubbles. After you’ve connected with a local organization, they’ll be able to give you some ideas as well. 

After you’ve filled your Easter baskets or plastic bins with new goodies, toys, and treats, drop them off knowing you’ve made a family’s holiday brighter. And keep in mind that Easter isn’t the only time you can do this: Many organizations accept birthday bags (filled with everything needed to throw a birthday party for a child) and back-to-school essentials like clothes, snacks, and laundry soap. Ask the organization what their other year-round needs are and consider donating throughout the rest of the year if you’re able. 


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