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Basket Brigade Brings Food to the Needy

Gather around this Saturday at Valley Montessori to help feed those in need.

Call it a quirk, but I’ve never liked calling Thanksgiving “Turkey Day.”

Accurate? You bet. Cute? Sure. But it marginalizes the notion that for one day at least, we give thanks for what we have and acknowledge so many less fortunate than ourselves.

We all know we should be shelling out what we can to help others all year long, but there’s something about the holiday season that puts us in a sharing frame of mind.

Like many others, my daughter Amy is doing a call to arms through social networking.

Or better yet, a call to make baskets that would make Yogi Bear go all Jellystone with glee. Through the Internet, she came across the efforts of her Mountain House neighbor Katherine Havener and her husband Reese Ramos to gather folks from around the Valley to join them at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Valley Montessori School to build the giving baskets for . The baskets are made and delivered on the same day.

Havener lived in the Valley as a teen back around 1988-1994 before going to college and law school. She came back in 2007 after previously living with her family in Orange County.

“We participated in the community drive in Orange County, where people come together to pack baskets and give them away,” Havener says. “I didn’t find anything exactly like that in the valley, so we decided to do it ourselves.”

She took last year off when she had her third daughter — she and Reese have an 8 and 5-year-old Havener home-schools — but decided to pick up the fundraiser this year. Valley Montessori volunteered their space and some willing hands to help. In 2009, Havener and her band of volunteers numbering around 300 whipped up more than 200 baskets.

They are setting their sights a little lower this year because of the tardy start.  Havener hopes to make at least 150 baskets, plus bags for the homeless.

“We’re starting a little late this year,” Havener says. “In prior years, we did this in both Pleasanton and Dublin and I started in August. This year, we started the week before Halloween, but the pledges have been coming in.”

The sweet thing about this drive is the fact that the baskets are assembled by people of all ages, and kids are especially encouraged to participate.

“There are very few opportunities to do this with young children, but we do this like an assembly line, with stations categorized by food,” Havener says. “The kids can put the potatoes in the basket, or other foods. They have an active participation in this."

The Basket Brigade then has volunteers deliver the baskets to both locals and those who live beyond the Valley borders. Those benefiting from the baskets include people identified as needing a basket by the Senior Support Services in Livermore, Brighter Beginnings for teen parents and even those contacting the Basket Brigade through Craigslist.

“I usually put a note on Craigslist and get a few recipients,” Havener says.

She does screen the people by asking them to write a story about their circumstances.

“We get about 20 or 30 from that, and the stories are heart-wrenching, including people who are dealing with cancer or just hard times,” Havener says. “We also bag up essentials like soap, trail mix, jerky, socks and even candy to give to the homeless. We try to keep it healthy, but everyone likes a little treat sometimes.”

If you would like to donate, or volunteer to build baskets or deliver, go to The Basket Brigade website. Or you can just show up. No one will be turned away whether they want to volunteer, or need a few extra groceries for the holidays.

Rick Washburn November 16, 2011 at 05:48 PM
This is a wonderful community event that brings families together to assemble and deliver baskets of food to others in need. It's a great way to actually "Give Thanks" at Thanksgiving! It's not too late to join, just be sure to register in advance - the organizers have to plan the number of baskets based on the number of participants and planned food donations. Some participants helped with the assembly of baskets (about 200 in 2009), others delivered the baskets - and some stayed all day and helped with both. It's a wholesome, family friendly event - lots of young children in attendance, and everyone found a way to contribute! Info and registration at: www.trivalleybasketbrigade.com

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