Local family works together to make holidays brighter for others

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By Alice Du Pont

Easter baskets. Just about everybody has gotten one. They can be as simple or as elaborate as the buyer would like. Sharon Harrison, who owns Baskets of Blessings, has been making these things of beauty and whimsy for the past 10 years.

"Business is good," she said. By last Sunday she and her daughter, April, had made over 100 baskets in different shapes and sizes, and she was still taking orders.

Harrison, who works out of her Lake Talquin-area home, is busiest around the main holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother’s Day, and she said Easter (at least in the basket business) seems to be growing.

"Each year, we're getting busier and busier around Easter. I don't know what it is exactly, but I think people are getting more thoughful. In hard times, they want to give something nice but not spend a whole lot, but they want the gift special," she said.

For Easter, she started buying items, gathering her thoughts and launching her creative energy in February. Her dining room table and other flat surfaces throughout her home are filled with items for the baskets. One small table holds only green plastic grass and near that table are baskets in all colors and sizes. Not too far away are plastic and candy eggs, chocolate bunnies and toys.

Harrison likes to customize her baskets. Before she starts a basket for an adult she talks to the customer first. She quizzes the giver about the recipient on such things as favorite colors, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and what the person likes to do during what she calls "self time." Then, she said, she and April go shopping.

"Every basket is different. And we are proud of the fact that we've never had a complaint or anyone return one in all these years of making baskets," she said.

Harrison didn't always work at home. She said she worked for two Tallahassee physicians and was looking for something closer to home. She started making jams and jellies, candies and chocolate covered spoons, as well as other gift items. April quit her job at Southern Medical in Tallahassee to help her with the business two years ago. Her husband, Jimmy, pitched in when he retired from the city of Quincy after 29 years as a public safety officer and later, a firefighter.

"Sometimes it’s like an assembly line around here, especially when we make items where all of them have to be the same for schools, churches and daycare centers. We have a lot of fun working together and we do a lot of laughing," she said.

The family works together on specialty items also. If a basket requires sewing, Jimmy will cut the pattern and she will sew. If the baskets require a pillow, April stuffs the pillow and she closes.

There is no set time for them to start projects. Harrison said they work on their own schedule and there is no stress involved. The job, she said, makes her happy when she sees the looks on people's faces or when the person who gave the basket tells her how much it was appreciated.

"We know what we have to do and we get it done," she said.

Delivery of the Easter baskets began Wednesday morning.