Hope for more than 900 at-risk and sick children will arrive this Easter in a basket of sweet treats, toys and Bibles.
Baskets for Hope, a project through First United Methodist Church of Cary, was started in 2005 by the Harmony Circle, a womens group that meets weekly at the church.
Ashley Van Wormer was drawn to the effort when she became aware of the needs of foster children. She wanted to do something special for them in the spring.
Letting them know the true story of Easter is one way for us to show that the rough times or disappointments they have had in their lives do not determine the rest of their lives, said Van Wormer, a Cary resident who has been a member of the church since 1998.
The effect of Baskets of Hope ripples through the childrens families. One mother sent a thank-you note for the baskets.
It is because of the love and belief and hope in God that my children are still here with me today, the mother wrote. I have been going through a very hard time in life. And now, thanks to your church, you have helped put a smile onto the faces of my two boys, for that I will forever be thankful!
The baskets are most often given to children under 10. Occasionally, a request comes in for an older child.
We have found that the teens are actually the most grateful for the baskets since so few things are done for the older kids, Van Wormer said. They are also the ones that are most affected by the Bibles and meaning of the baskets.
The first year, the group completed 44 baskets. Last year, the number of requests grew to 1,300, with baskets going to children who participate in programs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wake County, Southeast Raleigh Street Ministry, FUMCs Mighty Monday program and the Ronald McDonald houses in Chapel Hill and Durham.
The church funds the Bibles for the baskets, but donations are needed to complete the project. The goal this year is to stuff 900 baskets with age-appropriate goodies.
Sponsors can select a tag with a childs first name and age from the display at the church or donate items to be placed in the baskets. The collection efforts began last month and will wrap up March 17 with a packing party.
For most recipients, the basket may be the only gift they receive this time of year.
The children are still smiling, with lots of stories about the people who came to their community and shared love, said Otis Hardy, a Southeast Raleigh ministry volunteer who collects donations from the Cary church members to deliver weekly to families.
Colin Snider, outreach pastor at First United Methodist, oversees the basket project and likes the intergenerational aspect that brings all ages together to create something special.
For some people, this is the first step in getting involved in giving to the community, said Snider, who hopes volunteers will help out with other ministry outreach programs, including mission trips and the Southsast Raleigh Ministry.