TOWN OF LISBON - It might not seem significant at first glance — a mother and daughter from Lake Country coordinating an Easter basket donation for area families — but the meaning behind their work transcends the tangible baskets.
This is the third year Beth McKay of North Lake and her mother, Sharyn Evers of Lisbon, are taking on the task. To date, the duo has donated nearly a thousand Easter baskets to domestic violence shelters and child abuse agencies across Waukesha, Washington and Milwaukee counties.
“One of the reasons we’ve zeroed in on the domestic violence shelters and other agencies is because we really felt it was symbolic for Easter and for this time of year in general," McKay said. "It’s that symbolism of a new beginning, growth and life for women who are leaving domestic violence situations and for at-risk families; they’re shedding old ways as they learn new ways of managing. We’re really excited to be able to contribute to all those new beginnings.”
McKay said projects like this one are ubiquitous during the Christmas season, but are scarce during spring.
“That’s one of the reasons we decided to focus on Easter; everyone is doing this at Christmastime, but there isn’t as much happening now," McKay said. "The overall response we’ve gotten is people are blown away."
The baskets are prepared for a variety of ages and interests, and while some candy is included, the focus is on creativity and outdoor fun for kids. On top of the Easter baskets, they also distribute hundreds of egg-decorating kits, candy-stuffed eggs for egg hunts and various Easter crafts for shelter activities.
"We have a rule of thumb while we’re making these baskets: These have to be just as good as the ones I give my kids," McKay said. "They’re really spectacular baskets; they’re big and full, and they have good toys; they’re not dollar-store items. The workers at the shelters themselves are really blown away. There are a few select families I’ve helped individually outside of the agencies, and it’s been a really great treat for me to be able to work with them and to be able to hear how their kids responded."
With limited resources, special treats like a stuffed Easter basket is not always a possibility for these families, McKay said. She developed the idea for this project based on that thought when she was an outreach coordinator for her local church.
"I wanted to help kids in a way that brought the family unit together, and I wanted something that felt more personal and brought more of a humanness back into helping," McKay said. "I really felt what was missing was fun. The Easter baskets don’t seem like a necessity, but when you look at it from that perspective, family fun really is. We’ve had tears of gratitude just for parents to be able to do that little extra something that they wouldn’t be able to extend to their kids if it weren’t for this project. All the little extras get soaked up in the necessities, so it’s a special thing for them to be able to offer their kids.”
This year, the baskets are going to the Sojourner Truth House in Milwaukee, the Women's Center of Waukesha County, Friends of Abused Families in Washington County and others; the pair may even expand into Ozaukee County if they have enough baskets to spare.
After the baskets are distributed ahead of Easter, planning for next year's event will start immediately. Shopping the clearance section with discounts as low as 90 percent off has been the biggest way the duo is help so many families.
"Once Easter is done, literally the day after, me and my mom are going out, and we’re shopping the sales," McKay said. "A big thing that would always help is if people want to do the shopping, the things we always need are Easter baskets and any kind of little Easter toys they might see in the clearance section. If people don’t want to do the shopping, gift cards are great; Target is a big place I shop for this."
The family's annual Easter project has been such a success, they're considering forming a nonprofit in the near future called Guerillas of Goodwill. To find out more information on the project or what you can do to help, email McKay at email@example.com.