Gateway: Living

Gig Harbor nonprofit officially partners with Basket Brigade

A young volunteer helps assemble Thanksgiving baskets earlier this month as part of the Basket Brigade.
A young volunteer helps assemble Thanksgiving baskets earlier this month as part of the Basket Brigade. Courtesy

David Cathers has seen a lot of growth during the past two decades. He started the Gig Harbor Basket Brigade in 1993 to provide full Thanksgiving meals for eight unsuspecting families in need.

This year, through community connections and volunteers who refer people who could use a helping hand, the Basket Brigade served 1,436 families. It also became an official project under the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation.

Cathers praised the work of the foundation and for the nonprofit’s support. He said that he’s researched the possibility of the Basket Brigade obtaining its own 501(c)(3) status, but the costs and upkeep are prohibitive.

“It’s a perfect partnership because of all that the foundation does in our community,” Cathers said in a release. “We’ve also experienced first-hand how they can leverage resources to help the Basket Brigade save on expenses. It’s also great because the foundation gives support to many people that we work with each year.”

Cathers, who sits on the foundation’s Social Capital Core Area Board, has been involved with the Basket Brigade all 24 years. The major drive starts near the end of September to bring in enough food, funds and volunteers to put together packages that come with a special message:

“This basket comes to you from someone who cares about you. All we ask is that you take care of yourself well enough to do this for someone else someday.”

That ask has been a big help for the program. Today, many past recipients now help others as volunteers. The incremental increase broke through the 1,000-family mark a couple of years ago, and service now includes families in the Navy, Army and Air Force at their respective nearby installations.

“The need is definitely there in our community,” Cathers said. “We know because of our close work with area food banks and efforts like #Community Harvest, that it’s something that’s not going to go away.”

Cathers said about 450 people volunteered during a two-day operation this year to put baskets together and deliver them.

“Everybody is doing their part, and that makes a big difference,” he said.

“The relationship between the Basket Brigade and the foundation has grown over the years as we have worked to support its work through various services, food collection and volunteers,” GGHF co-founder and president emeritus Julie Ann Gustanski said.

“The foundation works on behalf of our entire community, advocating for, and supporting the efforts of, many charitable causes. There are many groups in our community like the Basket Brigade working toward specific charitable goals and yet do not have tax exempt status, limiting their ability to raise necessary funds or meet other requirements,” Gustanski added. “As our community’s foundation, we recognize providing fiscal sponsorship as part of our mission — and there’s clear alignment between the goals and objectives of the Basket Brigade and the foundation.”

GGHF provides administrative services, a safe place to keep funds, and tax-deductible status to the organizations trying to make the community a better through projects like the Basket Brigade. Now, as a sponsored project of GGHF, the Basket Brigade will to operate under its 501(c)(3) status, allowing contributions to an established fund within the foundation to be tax-deductible. Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour and the 911 Memorial Project are examples of other community projects that GGHF has assisted.

Cathers will continue to operate the Basket Brigade under the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation.

His hope is that it will continue to grow and encourage others to get involved.

For more information, call Brian McLean at the Foundation at 253-514-6338, ext. 106, or visit

Donations for the Basket Brigade can be made directly to the foundation, noting Basket Brigade, c/o David Cathers, 5500 Olympic Drive, Suite H105, PMB 217, Gig Harbor, WA 98335.