Gifts from ‘Heaven’ donated to local families today

At this time of year, when people often speak of miracles, Greenwich residents Scott and Suzanne Diddel, founders of Baskets from Heaven, know what it’s like to produce them.

For nearly two decades the couple has spent Thanksgiving week assembling dozens of 40-pound baskets, chock full of traditional Thanksgiving foods, and distributing them to those who need them most throughout Greenwich and Stamford.

According to Mr. Diddel, the concept of Baskets from Heaven developed just over 20 years ago when he and his wife said they learned that many of the charitable organizations they donated to were not using the majority of cash donations to fund the people that were in need of help.

 

Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Mr. Diddel formulated the idea of delivering baskets of food to needy families in Stamford, where his family-run financial firm, Diddel & Diddel, is located.

Using the firm’s annual golf outing as a fund-raiser, the Diddels began collecting money for their baskets, finding along the way that friends, family and community members were more than willing to help in any way they could, whether by donating supplies from their local businesses or providing vehicles to transport the baskets, Ms. Diddel said.

In their first year, the couple raised funds for and distributed 29 Baskets from Heaven, relying on church groups and social services employees to point them in the direction of families who were in need.

One of Mr. Diddel’s fondest memories from that first year, he said, is of a woman he described as living in the worst neighborhood in Greenwich. After opening her door and comprehending the purpose of the basket, Mr. Diddel said, her grateful, teary-eyed reaction couldn’t have been more perfect.

“You must be angels,” she told Mr. Diddel, “Because only God knows I have nothing to eat.”

Similar sentiments have often been heard over the years from first-time recipients overwhelmed by their baskets of goodies, Mr. Diddel said.

The ultimate goal in providing Baskets from Heaven is to see people pay it forward, he added. Each basket is filled with a 20-pound turkey, gravy, stuffing, a pie, and plenty more — enough, in fact, to feed 30 people. The hope is that basket recipients will use the abundance of food, along with a floral centerpiece, to share with family and neighbors who are also in need, Mr. Diddel explained.

At $70 per basket, he added, it’s critical that those who make donations understand that every penny of their contribution goes directly to the cause.

“It’s very special. … We’re not a charity … so what goes in goes out,” Mr. Diddel said.

And in addition to needy families around Stamford and Greenwich, a number of local organizations have benefited from the Diddels’ generous offerings. Since the inception of Baskets from Heaven, those supported by Kids in Crisis, Malta House and Domus, to name a few, have also been basket recipients, Ms. Diddel said.

Furthermore, she said, in recent years the Diddels have discovered that the needy homes they have previously targeted are only a fraction of the Stamford and Greenwich families that are struggling. After speaking with Greenwich social worker Alison Brush about four years ago, Ms. Diddel said, she was shocked to learn that the town has 400 families in need.

“I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Once you start asking questions, you realize you’re just tipping the iceberg.”

Accordingly, the number of families helped by Baskets from Heaven increases annually.

The goal this year is to provide the community with 185 baskets, but based on the “staggering” number of last-minute donations coming in, there are sure to be at least 200 distributed, Ms. Diddel said.

Additionally, any funding collected after Thanksgiving will be used for grocery gift cards in amounts equivalent to the food in each basket, which will also be distributed to needy families in the community and could total as many as 50, she said.

Oddly enough, the number of volunteers who assist with Baskets from Heaven changes from year to year, “but we always have enough,” Mr. Diddel explained. “And that’s where the magic is.”

The Diddels can expect anywhere between 30 and 50 volunteers each year to help assemble and package baskets on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and to pack the vans and deliver them the following day, Ms. Diddel said, and they are always happy to be a part of the process.

“People really want to help, they just don’t know how,” she explained. “If we can be the point people to make that happen on this one given day, we’re happy to do that.”

For more information, visit diddel.com/Baskets-From-Heaven.7.htm or contact Scott at [email protected] or Suzanne at [email protected]

 

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