DFCS hands out donated baskets to children

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Easter Bunny came early this year for some Gwinnett children and their families.

The Gwinnett Department of Family and Children Services collected 1,870 Easter baskets for children and teens last week, and DFCS volunteers say they expect to end the collection with nearly 1,900.

Sue Zan Hearn, volunteer project coordinator, said baskets will be given to foster, Child Protective Services and DFCS low-income children in the community.

"The case workers have already started picking up the baskets and delivering them to the children," Hearn said.

Community members and local church, senior and school groups filled baskets with individually wrapped candy and treats, toys and gift cards for children and teens.

Hearn said last month each case worker turned in a list to DFCS of the children they serve and needed to receive a basket.

"If they're a child in foster care in Gwinnett County they should receive a basket," said Deborah Barinowski, volunteer resource coordinator for Gwinnett DFCS.

Hearn said more than 800 baskets have already been picked up in anticipation of this weekend's holiday.

"On Thursday we had so many baskets in here that you couldn't even walk," Hearn said.

Donations were collected last week at the Georgia Army National Guard Armory at 261 East Crogan St. in Lawrenceville.

"It takes a lot of space that we simply do not have to collect all these baskets," said Barinowski. "And the Armory has been so generous to loan us the space - we couldn't do it without them."

Barinowski said DFCS workers and volunteers have been collecting baskets each Easter season since the 1990s.

"They (the children) always look forward to receiving these baskets," Barinowski said.

Hearn said this year's community support has been stellar, with some groups bringing in 50 to 250 baskets at a time.

"The community really comes out for these children," Hearn said. "And to see the children's faces light up when they receive a basket is priceless."

In addition to collecting baskets in the spring, Hearn said DFCS volunteers gather again in July to collect book bags and school supplies for DFCS children and again in December, gathering toys for Christmas gifts.

Any extra baskets not given away, Hearn said, will go back to the DFCS office in Lawrenceville to keep for future children who come into the program.

"Kids are constantly coming into the system, adding more every day," Hearn said. "So we keep the baskets to give to them."

Hearn said the DFCS group plans to collect baskets at Easter time again next year.

"There's always going to be a need," Hearn said.