Rochester volunteer group assembles 183 Easter baskets for children
Traditionally, people would bring Easter baskets filled with delicious goods to church in order to have the items blessed by a priest.
ROCHESTER — It takes a bit of art to put together a colorful, eye-catching Easter basket.
Imagine assembling 183 of them (in which each piece of candy is individually wrapped). It takes patience and time, organization and manpower to get the job done.
And a large measure of goodwill. For one group of Rochester volunteers, it was enough to know that it would bring happiness to a child, though they may never see a child's first eager reaction to a basket brimming with eggs, chocolate and candies and stuffed animals.
All those qualities were on display Tuesday when the 13 members of Laureate Pi, a Rochester chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, a community service-oriented organization, began their task. Arrayed before them were eight tables covered with colorful Easter grass, candy-filled eggs, Hershey kisses and 10-inch-tall chocolate bunnies.
Beginning their work assembly-line style, the women had half the baskets assembled six hours later. The rest were put together Wednesday.
Lahey and others have been putting together Easter baskets for the past 25 years as part of their chapter's primary service project, she said. When you've been filling Easter baskets for that long, you learn certain lessons.
“This is the first time we’ve taken two days,” Patricia Lahey, chapter president, said. “We really worked hard last year, let me tell you, because we didn’t have as many people. This year went much better.”
Easter baskets are rooted in Christian tradition. To celebrate the end of Lent, people would bring baskets of delicious goods to church in order to have the items blessed by a priest.
It also has pagan roots. Easter is also a celebration of spring, when life buds anew from a cold and barren landscape. The rabbit and the egg are symbols of fertility, of life returning, of nature re-wakening. And baskets filled with eggs and other treasures convey the idea of birth, new beginnings and potential. The Christian idea of Christ's resurrection overlaps with ancient pagan idea of the "coming of life."
Credit Lahey and other volunteers for the Easter bunny's expanded coverage area. The baskets will be delivered by social workers from Family Service Rochester to families with children who are clients of FSR and the Women’s Shelter.
Even though the families who receive the baskets are anonymous, every so often word gets back to chapter members of how a delighted child reacted. They receive thank-you notes, too.
One time, a student at Bamber Valley Elementary School approached her teacher and told her how she had received “this most wonderful Easter basket,” not knowing that the teacher had helped assemble the basket.
“It’s just so worthwhile,” said Lahey. “It makes it worth our time and effort.”
Lahey said the project begins with collecting Easter baskets and stuffed animals throughout the year. Sam’s Club pitched with a “huge discount” on candy. The project culminates with the two-day effort this week, more than a week before Easter Sunday on April 9.
When the baskets are filled, the women cover the basket with plastic and tie a curly ribbon on top.
“They look fantastic,” Lahey said. “They look like the ones in the store that sell for $25. It is very rewarding for us, to be able to make people happy.”