When Gig Harbor resident David Cathers started the Thanksgiving Basket Brigade, just eight people were involved. Together, the group made 12 baskets.
Fast forward to 2016, the Basket Brigade made about 1,305 baskets. As part of Wednesday’s event at the Tacoma Narrows Airport, nearly 400 volunteers created baskets for 1,156 families.
“(It’s) just growing every year, and (we) just built it as a good community event,” Cathers said.
Some of the volunteers are members of families who have received these baskets in the past, he said.
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“It’s neat to see it come full circle,” Cathers added.
The baskets include a turkey, canned corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, fruit cocktail, pasta, mac & cheese, peanut butter, and rice, all culminating into about a week’s worth of food.
The baskets are also decorated with ribbons and each come will a tag that reads: “This comes from someone who cares, all we ask is you take care of yourself well enough to do this for someone else someday.”
Children from local schools, the Boys and Girls’ Club, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts as well as adults help with the decorations before they are sent out.
“Most of the people helping I think get as much out of it as the people who get the baskets,” Cathers said.
The baskets going to local families were hand-delivered Wednesday, and Cathers said they try not to be seen by the families to avoid any possible embarrassment. There are times they get caught though, he said.
“That’s what keeps you coming back too, I think. Some of the experiences we’ve had with getting caught, and some of the happy tears we’ve had, and smiles we see and hugs,” he said.
Last year during the basket delivery, Cathers said one family was hard to get in contact with to give the basket because of a language barrier.
The family volunteers were trying to deliver to only spoke Spanish, so to make sure they were able to give them the basket Cathers called up an old exchange student he knew through Rotary in the 1990s who spoke Spanish.
With his help, they were able to bridge the communication gap and make sure that family received their basket.
“It was just a good thing to see and feel that someone got it,” he said.
Baskets are typically given to people within the community that have a need. This can be anything from divorce to a loss of employment or a death in the family. The Brigade doesn’t turn away any families who are signed up.
“If someone has a need or they know somebody that does, let’s get it handled and all the politics can be handled by everybody else,” Cathers said.
Baskets going to Navy and Joint Base Lewis-McChord families were put together Tuesday, and some soldiers returned to help make and deliver the baskets on Wednesday, Cathers said.
The idea for the Basket Brigade was started by Tony Robbins of the Anthony Robbins Foundation after he received similar baskets when he was young, Cathers said.
After Cathers moved to Gig Harbor, he decided to bring the program with him and it’s been growing ever since.
More information can be found at gigharborbasketbrigade.com. Both money and food can be donated to the organization from the website.