What does it take to make Project Easter Basket a success? What lies behind the scenes?
Approximately 6 months prior to Easter, Karen Doremus, who is an Executive Assistant at Rite Aid, begins to work on a project she started years ago. Her Easter Basket mission begins by contacting many local donors that include her own place of work, Rite Aid. Most of the merchandise obtained is from Rite Aid at the model store in Mechanicsburg, PA. The model store prepares several seasons ahead with merchandise that will be staged and photographed, from which planograms are then created. These planograms are used by the stores to set up merchandise on shelves so that all stores are the same. Once the model store is done with the seasonal merchandise, it is typically donated to several local charities. This project is incorporated into Project SHARE’s overall Sponsor a Family for Easter campaign.
Karen and her team consisting of several Rite Aid associates travel to the model store and package stackable totes and bags of Easter candy, plastic eggs, baskets, stuffed animals, grass and toys. Once these donations are packaged, a general idea of inventory including shortages of items will be determined. The goal is for each basket to have a chocolate bunny and we have been fortunate to solicit donations from a vendor, The Palmer Chocolate Company, who has been very generous to this project as well. All product is shrink wrapped on skids and ready for transport. Project SHARE picks up the donated merchandise from the model store and stores it on their site until assembly time.
The team also solicits donations of cellophane bags, additional Easter baskets, etc. Some of these are donated by the volunteers themselves and some are obtained from other local companies. Each year we learn from the prior year how to better manage and solicit donations.
A few weeks prior to the actual distribution to Project SHARE recipients, a team of 15-20 volunteers meet at Project SHARE and assemble and package the baskets.
Here’s how it works: In the past we have typically done this project in two days (evening prior to set up, next morning/day to assemble and package) which works very well. This year, we did it in one day due to logistics, room availability, etc.
We arrived at Project SHARE on February 24 at 10:00 AM and worked until 5:00 PM to set up, stage, assemble and package the baskets.
Below outlines the process:
- Staging – Working room set up with a basket assembly line, plastic egg filling line and a packaging area.
- About 12 volunteers met the morning of basket assembly to unpack merchandise and set up the room and have it ready for assembly. This takes approximately 2-3 hours of time.
- Assembly – Baskets are assembled, packaged, counted and placed into the bins provided by Project SHARE.
About 15-20 volunteers work to assemble the baskets. This year we had 20 and it took us about 5 hours.
- Four to five volunteers work to fill plastic eggs using loose candy like jelly beans, malted milk balls and M&Ms, etc. Basically, if it is loose in a bag, we try to put it into the plastic eggs to make the best use of inventory.
- One to two volunteers work to move around inventory. They move the filled eggs from the egg line to the basket assembly line and make sure the assembly line has a continual supply of inventory, refilling bins as needed. These volunteers also take cardboard boxes and flatten and place them into the appropriate bins for Project SHARE to recycle.
- Two volunteers work to fill Easter grass into the baskets so they are ready for the assemblers.
- Assemblers take a grass-filled basket and walk down the assembly line to add a chocolate bunny, toy/stuffed animal, plastic candy filled eggs and other wrapped candy
- Assembled baskets are then placed on the finished basked table
- A team of four to five volunteers take the baskets from the finished table and package them into large cellophane bags, tied with colored ribbon.
- We have one basket counter who takes packaged baskets to the storage bins, counting and keeping track of each so we can get a final accurate count. Baskets remain in these storage bins for Project SHARE to use for distribution day.
- The final step is to clean up the room and leave it in an organized manner for the Project SHARE team to see when they arrive the next business day.
Bunnie Basket Team: Karen & Jeffrey Doremus , Deb & Rob Myers, Charlie & Edna Beidel, Penny Derr, Jamie, Greyson, Peyton and Alivia Heckard, Peter & Wendy Vlahos, Ruth Hurston, Kim Lehman, Ben & Melinda Leitzel, Tamiko Smith, Janel Shipp, and Brenda Scholly.
We, at Project SHARE are blessed to have Karen and her team outreach to our community during the Easter season. On behalf of the many families who experience the joy of receiving a basket, Project SHARE thanks all of the team for their heartfelt efforts.