Arroyo Grande woman needs help delivering 1,000 Easter baskets to homeless children

The Kennedy Club Fitness foyer was filled with the distinctive crinkle of cellophane and the crunch of shredded paper as volunteers examined, labeled and added items to the hundreds of pastel-colored Easter baskets spread throughout the room.

In the middle of it stood Joy Danley, the mastermind behind “Baskets of Love.”

Danley, an Arroyo Grande resident, is trying to gather or make 1,000 Easter baskets for homeless children in the Lucia Mar Unified School District. With her deadline of April 10 fast approaching, she’s so far gathered about 500 — meaning she has just a week to double the number of baskets she and her volunteers have gathered in the past month.

“We’re absolutely going to make it, we just need the community to step up and help us push for this last 500,” she said Monday.

Danley said Lucia Mar contacted her because of previous large fundraisers she has coordinated. She was told that about 825 elementary, 100 middle and 75 high school students in the South County district are homeless.

To help them, Danley is asking for people to make or buy Easter baskets for students in those age groups, and fill them with both fun and practical items.

“We just want them to fill them with things that an average child would need,” she said. “Not only school supplies, but also basic need things: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloths, flashlights — all of those things. And we encourage also some games or books, and those kind of things. For our middle school, high school, it’s lip gloss, nail polish, hairbrushes — you know, things an average child would love, but also are basic necessities they don’t have.”

Other items included in the baskets are gift cards to places like Wal-Mart or Starbucks, snacks and even rolls of quarters for the laundry.

For those who don’t wish to make a basket themselves, Danley is also accepting donated items to help fill baskets or money to buy pre-made baskets. Monetary donations can be made on her GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/joy-danleys-easter-basket-drive, and items can be dropped off in person at Kennedy Club Fitness in Arroyo Grande or Paso Robles.

“We’ll take whatever help they are willing to give,” she said.

The most important part of the baskets isn’t the goodies within — it’s a note. Danley is asking everyone who makes a basket to include a handwritten note of encouragement to the child who will receive it.

“Some of these kids will keep that note in their notebook forever,” she said. “It’s the first note they’ve ever had that says, ‘You’re important,’ and ‘We care about you,’ ‘Work hard.’ Some of these kids have never had that sort of encouragement.”

Danley said so far she has gathered a lot of baskets appropriate for elementary schoolers but needs more for the middle and high school students.

Though she has collected about half of her goal, she still needs the community’s help to reach the end.

“I don’t want to be the one that decides which child gets one and which one doesn’t,” she said. “So I’m really asking the community to step up.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

South County Easter festivities

  • Nipomo will host its Kids Day and Egg Hunt on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Nipomo Community Park. The free event will feature hunts for kids up to 12 years old, a Rotary Club barbecue, carnival games and a magic show.
  • Arroyo Grande will host its 28th annual Egg Hunt and Festival on April 15 at Elm Street Park, 1221 Ash St., at 10 a.m. It includes egg hunts for all ages, egg toss contests, free hot dogs, pony rides and other carnival activities.