The Next Big Event to Prepare for: OPERATION EASTER BASKET

This is the time of year that I obsess over a different set of numbers — not swim sets or mileage, Easter baskets. Picking out stuff for needy kids in Long Beach for Operation Easter Basket definitely picks my heart rate up.

Yesterday, my oh-so-generous friend Sue and I made our annual pilgrimage to the discount store, and loaded up several carts. We were given a special assignment, baskets for babies. We filled her car up with 18 baskets, and had a blast in the process. Each contained things like baby powder, onesies, teeny tiny socks, and stuffed animals. Then we dropped them off at Operation Easter Basket’s headquarters, my friend April’s house.

If you live in the Long Beach area and would like to put together an Easter basket for a needy kid, keep reading for the official Operation Easter Basket instructions. You can always team up with a few friends to put one together. Or, if you’re too busy, simply send a check in any amount to the address below. Every little bit helps. This year, Operation Easter Basket hopes to deliver more than 1,250 baskets.

OPERATION EASTER BASKET seeks to bring joy and hope to children in desperate situations right here in Long Beach through gift-filled Easter Baskets containing items such as small toys, school supplies, hygiene products, essential clothing items and some Easter candy. This program, organized by Justin Rudd and his 501c3 nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), provides an opportunity for people of all ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on project while focusing on the true meaning of love -- the greatest gift. Last year, more than 1,100 baskets were delivered on Easter weekend to the most underserved children in Long Beach, hand-selected by the public health nurses at the City of Long Beach Health Department and other public and private agencies. This year we want to help by collecting and distributing even more baskets.

1. First, decide whether your gift will be for a boy or girl and choose an age category: (2-4), (5-9), or (10-14). Attach a note to the handle of your Easter basket that says "BOY" or "GIRL" and the age category (i.e. BOY, age 5-9).
2. Find a basket that you can use to create your Easter Basket.
3. Then, fill your basket with a variety of gifts:
TOYS: small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, plastic kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, small Etch A Sketch, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky, etc.
SCHOOL SUPPLIES: pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, coloring books, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, etc.
HYGIENE ITEMS: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, soap, comb, bubble bath, washcloth, etc.
ESSENTIAL CLOTHING: socks, T-shirts, slippers, underwear, ball caps, etc.
MORE IDEAS: manufacturer's-packaged candy (i.e. no loose jelly beans), age-appropriate hard candy (i.e. not too small for a young child to choke on), lollipops, mints, gum, sunglasses, flashlights with extra batteries, toy jewelry sets, hair clips, watches, small picture books, gift certificates, books, etc.

DEADLINE: Noon on Good Friday, April 6

DROP-OFF LOCATIONS: HOME OF APRIL RIVAS, OUR COORDINATOR, 325 Bay Shore Ave., between Vista & Appian Way, 2 blocks north of Second St., Belmont Shore, 90803 562.433.1340. NOTE: Safe to leave baskets on the front porch. Bungalow Bay, 6457 E. PCH, (Marketplace Long Beach, between Claim Jumper and Calif. Pizza Kitchen), Long Beach, 562.596.1839 Starling Diner, 4114 East 3rd St., Long Beach, 90814, 562.433.2041 Belmont Shore: Coldwell Banker/Erik Bueno, 5353 E. 2nd Street #205 (above Subway), 562.884.2839.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS NEEDED. We can help make Easter Baskets for you and we truly appreciate any gift, monetary or in-kind, that would help us to make possible this Easter effort of love. Your tax-deductible check or gift can be payable/mailed to: "CAT" c/o Justin Rudd, 5209 E. The Toledo #1, Long Beach, CA 90803. Please write Easter Basket in the check's memo line.