GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The gymnasium at Saint Paul the Apostle in Grand Rapids is busy. The school’s third graders are in a frenzy, concentrated on the assignment from their teacher: Fill 350 empty Easter baskets.
“When we first started out, we had about 100 baskets. The children wrote to different businesses,” third grade teacher Kathleen Swain said.
Those businesses were asked to give, in the name of giving. And over the 25 years Swain has been asking for donations, the size and willingness has grown with the number of baskets.
“Lacks gave us a $300 gift card to Oriental Trading, dentists gave us toothpaste, toothbrushes and then parents just started giving us things too. So now we’re up to 350 Easter baskets.”
Each basket has a purpose — surprising a local child who otherwise would have gone without an Easter basket Sunday morning. A need Swain noticed when she began teaching 38 years ago.
“A lot of these kids, they didn’t get Easter baskets and it was a real bummer for them when people would talk about ‘I got this’ and somebody else said, ‘oh I didn’t get an Easter basket,” Swain said. “So I thought well, there’s a need there, let’s go and fill it.”
And year by year, basket by basket that is what she has done — teaching her students a valuable lesson on giving in the process.
“We tell the kids that Jesus did this for us so now it’s our turn to do something for others,” Swain said. “Just follow what Jesus said, love each other.”
It is a student led effort. They were in charge of writing the 20-25 letters to local businesses asking for donations. They also were given $5 from money they raise each month to buy something special, a personal touch for each basket.
And in the gym, the students filled each basket with candy, stuffed animals, books, toys and hygiene products. And as these 18 third graders went through 350 baskets, their focus on the detail of each was heartwarming.
“I feel kind of bad for them because everyone deserves to have an Easter basket,” third grader Annelise Melvin said.
When the students were through filling up each basket, they loaded them in to a group of cars that brought them to Catholic Charities of West Michigan. The local nonprofit distributed them to St. John’s Home, DA Blodgett and foster care homes across West Michigan — ensuring that those baskets fill a need for kids who otherwise would go without.