Why Gift Baskets?

An interview with Open Baskets founder Colleen Hansen.

How did your family become involved with creating holiday gift packages for adults living with mental illness?

COLLEEN HANSEN (CH): We were so impressed by the service my son, Mike, received from Mental Health Resources (MHR) we wanted to give a holiday treat to the MHR staff members who had direct contact with Mike. We created some small baskets and after we delivered them we received a phone call advising us the staff could not accept them as it would be a conflict of interest. During the conversation the staff member mentioned an upcoming holiday party for the clients. I asked if the baskets could be used there. She was very excited about the idea and evidently the clients were as well. The next year we thought it would be fun to do some baskets and we approached the MHR staff to determine how many clients they supported. We were surprised to hear the number of clients the MHR ACT and SIT team supported from their Burnsville office. We knew there was no way financially we could manage to create almost 250 baskets. So we decided on 100. We have received great joy in gathering and creating the baskets. As a family we enjoy spending time together. We also want to promote a desire to give as part of our family legacy. By making the holiday baskets for MHR clients we are able to achieve having family time and creating a passion for giving while brightening the lives of your clients.

What influenced your decision to give to people served by Mental Health Resources?

CH: The population of individuals served by MHR seems to be forgotten at some levels. Not by MHR but by the general public. There seems to be an opportunity to brighten a moment of time for your clients.

Why do you think giving is important?

CH: We have been blessed in many areas of our life and believe we need to share with others who can be encouraged by our gift, large or small.

Do you have any advice for the friends and family of people living with mental illness who want to contribute?

CH: I know this can be said better, but we need to love our loved ones through their good and bad times. When I consider how challenging it is for me to ride the wave of my son’s emotions, I always need to take a step back and think how much more difficult it is for him.

What has been your best giving experience so far?

CH: When you give from the heart every experience is the best. I will admit, receiving a few cards from Clients at MHR choked me up to hear our basket was the only gift they had received.

Describe any difficulties you faced in donating to a mental health agency or volunteering your time.

CH: There have been no difficulties for us at all. Many thanks to all the staff at MHR for the work they do on a daily basis to understand the needs of our loved one and the compassion they demonstrate to them and their family.