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GUILFORD — Wanting their children to experience the feeling of helping their community, a group of mothers organized an Easter basket giveaway.

“Service is something that’s important to all of our families and it’s been harder because we have younger kids,” Tosha Tillman said. “They really need tangible service for it to be understood by them so we came up with this idea and just went for it, and it has worked out wonderfully.”

The moms — Kitsie LaRock, Alix Joyal and Tillman — held what Tillman called “the big basket party” on Wednesday, where a table was filled “crazy Easter items.” Six of their children packed 21 baskets to be delivered to families or the Guilford Free Library.

The initiative was announced via Facebook and Front Porch Forum. Tillman said any child from Guilford was eligible due to the difficulties and challenges facing parents in the COVID-19 pandemic — there’s shipping delays, financial struggles, emotional troubles, etc.

“It can be another thing on somebody’s list that we wanted to be able to take off their list,” she said.

The first wave of responses came from those interested in donating money or items to the effort, Tillman said. Walmart, a co-sponsor, provided a $100 gift card that allowed for stuffed animals to be purchased for nearly every basket.

Tillman said the children involved in making up the baskets found the project meaningful.

“Right now, most of our kids are on the younger end of the spectrum in elementary school,” she said. “To do something that’s service oriented in the time of our pandemic life, which is so distance oriented, makes it very challenging. The mamas, we wanted to have something that would have an immediate impact on our community and would be an example of service learning for our kids. So it was a win-win.”

Baskets were tailored to the recipient’s age and included eggs filled with stampers, stickers and candy. Frisbees, kites, chocolate bunnies, Peeps, jelly beans, jump ropes, sunglasses, chalk and bubbles also went in.

Items were selected to inspire children to go outside and move around.

“We know how much screen time our kids have had to have because of remote school,” Tillman said. “And with it warming up and spring being here, we just wanted to provide some tools for them to engage with the outdoors.”

She suggested the potential to expand the project into other communities next year.

“I feel like we, as a community, have experienced so many of what I’m calling soft losses,” Tillman said, using the annual Guilford Fair and Apple Pie Social at Broad Brook Community Center as examples. “We just didn’t want any kids to miss out on Easter.”

Tillman described being “so happy” about the town’s recreation department recently announcing it would be having safe outdoor activities for the holiday.

“We’re grateful for Guilford Rec for putting those on for the kids as well,” she said.


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