One Small Basket, One Giant Step for the Neediest

Mississippi woman found a way to honor and care for some of the dearest friends, family and neighbors

It’s hard to believe, as we publish this, that Christmas is right around the corner. While this means another season of shopping-mall fights, overcooked turkeys and obnoxious relatives, one Mississippi woman is looking to share the actual Christmas spirit with people near her who live in nursing homes.

Baskets and more baskets fill the room — all because of one thoughtful woman (photo credits: Heather Sartin).

Heather Sartin of Tupelo is the activity director at an assisted living facility in her area. For a few years, Sartin, who is married and has two children, has been collecting and distributing items for her so-called “guardian angels” project.

“We accept and deliver everyday hygiene items and snack foods, small blankets, crossword puzzles, pens and paper,” she told LifeZette in an interview. “To people who are in assisted living facilities, candy and crossword puzzles are luxuries for a budget that’s going toward rent and medications.”

Sartin and her army of elves deliver the items in laundry baskets.

She came up with the idea a few years ago after watching the residents quarrel over bingo prizes.

“I realized how needy they are and wanted to provide these items for them, with snack foods and other items they like.”

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In 2013, Sartin — who sings in her church choir — reached out to her fellow church members, two of whom are teachers in different school systems. Both got their students involved in helping provide laundry baskets and gift items. Ninety-three baskets were donated to residents where Sartin works. The next year, Sartin’s project filled 690 baskets thanks to the involvement of more churches, schools, and teachers. To date, it has grown to more than 1,000 baskets.

“God showed up in a mighty big way,” she said. “Residents were literally crying, and some were just too emotional to even speak. To see their eyes light up and and to see them smiling over a bottle of body wash, or something as simple as a pack of chocolate bars — it’s very humbling.”

Sartin encourages people of all ages to get involved with a project of this sort, whether they do so as individuals, as an organization, or through a church group.

Heather Sartin started the basket program — and won’t stop giving to others.

“It is life-changing when you see someone thankful for something that means nothing to us — but everything to them.”

That’s exactly how Louise Northcutt, a retired school teacher, described things in a related story aired by NBC affiliate WTVA last November.

“We look forward to a big laundry basket because it lets us know Christmas is in the right place,” said Northcutt. “I think it contains exactly everything I think we need because sometimes we get kind of lonesome and need something like this little thing to cheer us up.”

Meanwhile, Heather Sartin urges people to carry their charitable good works over into the next year.

“Visit those people, hand them a drink or a snack, and sit with them,” she also told LifeZette. “This generation gave us our heritage and freedom, and it is sad when you see them withdraw and get depressed because they do feel cast out and forgotten.”

Related: How Kindness Can Heal the Heart

Heather Sartin is making sure people do not feel that way at Christmas — and she’s doing it one basket at a time.

Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and Based in Mississippi, he is also a contributor to and and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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