Baskets of Joy
In 2004, Karen Mesler challenged students in her eighth-grade religion class to come up with an idea for a service project.
She wanted them to collect enough items to fill 12 baskets for less-fortunate children at Easter. By the time they were done, 25 baskets were ready to be delivered.
“They blew me away,” Mesler recalled.
The idea for Alleluia Baskets was born that day.
Now in its 14th year, the not-for-profit organization is making sure needy children throughout the area have Easter baskets.
“Christmas is blown out of proportion in my personal opinion,” Mesler said. “Kids get a lot of stuff at Christmas and that is it. A lot of kids that live in shelters, in low-income homes, they don’t get anything for Easter, birthdays or they don’t get to go out and eat like we do.”
Alleluia Baskets is filling that void.
The baskets are filled with candy, books, crayons, coloring books, chalk, stuffed animals and small toys. Most importantly, the baskets show that someone cares.
In March, Alleluia Baskets received a $500 Operation Round Up grant awarded by the Cuivre River Electric Community Trust Board. The contribution was enough to purchase items to fill 45 baskets, which were delivered in St. Charles and Lincoln counties, two of the four counties in the cooperative’s service area.
A couple of weeks prior to Easter this year, Mesler estimated that 2,500 to 2,700 baskets were going to be distributed to 39 organizations, including homeless shelters, food pantries and St. Vincent de Paul Society groups. Nearly 13,000 baskets have been distributed in the past 14 years.
Mesler is thankful for the help she has received from dozens of donors, people who chip in with a $20 bill or shop for discounted baskets immediately after the Easter holiday. The donations come from all over, from local businesses who hold drives or from people out of state who hear about the program.
“This is a huge undertaking,” said Mesler, who retired last year to focus on raising more awareness about Alleluia Baskets. “It takes all year to collect everything we need. We have a great group of people who help out.”
Mesler is now looking for new space to house Alleluia Baskets next year. This year, the organization occupied unrented commercial space on Salt Lick Road in St. Peters.
Operation Round Up was created to address needs that cannot be met with other resources. These funds are available to individuals and organizations within the CREC service area encompassing Lincoln, Pike, Warren and St. Charles counties. For more information, call 800-392-3709, ext. 4837 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.