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'Experience the joy' | Grand Rapids students make sure kids don't go without on Easter

St. Paul the Apostle School needs help from the community to bring Easter joy to children this year.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Around two decades ago, Kathy Swain was doing her student teaching. In the spring, she noticed something unsettling.

"All the kids were talking about what they got from the Easter Bunny. I had three kids in my whole classroom who didn't get Easter baskets and they were asking what that was all about. So I wanted to help them out," said Swain, who is now a student services staff member at St. Paul the Apostle School.

Swain says many organizations exist to help children out at Christmas, but she's not aware of any organizations that do the same thing during Easter.

The first year, Swain and her students put together 120 Easter baskets for people experiencing homelessness at God's Kitchen. Since then, the effort has grown tremendously.

"We did about 250 baskets when I was in third grade, and this year we're doing 1,100. It's a really big difference," Taylor Wisinski, who is now an eighth grader at St. Paul.

With the ambitious goal comes a lot of work, but the students are happy to do it. In fact, it's become one of their favorite parts of the school year.

"As soon as Christmas is done, in January I'm getting questions. They ask when we're starting the Easter project," Swain said.

The workload includes reaching out to local businesses that might be able to help donate supplies.

"We need a lot of donations. We need coloring books, books, stuff for self care, so you can like wash up, like toothbrushes, soap, and that. Little toys, and another big thing is the Easter baskets," Wisinski said.

"Easter baskets are really expensive to get. It's like $1 an Easter basket if you go to a dollar store or something, but you times that by 1,100, and that's a lot of money. Any help would be amazing."

Once the items are donated, the baskets need to be assembled.

"I actually really enjoy making baskets. It makes me happy that I'm helping other children," said third grader Molly Gutwald.

"I like picking out the things I usually like for other kids that are kind of like me. I like to have other kids experience the joy I do when I wake up and find out where the Easter Bunny hid my basket."

If you would like to help with the effort, you can call St. Paul the Apostle School at 616-949-1690 ex. 223 to arrange a donation drop off. You can also email Swain at kswain@spagr.org. Along with the items listed above, the school also accepts checks and gift cards. The last day to donate is March 24.

"It's really cool to see how the community cares. They've donated stuff to show that they care about the community, and that they want to see other people feel good," Wisinski said.

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