The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 23, 2013

Basket project delivers holiday cheer to seniors

— Rachel Kwisnek had a goal of making people smile during the Christmas holiday.

The senior at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School was inspired by an idea from her late aunt, Grace Lieb of Nicktown, who died in March at age 96.

Lieb suggested that Rachel and her family create Christmas baskets out of used holiday cards and provide them as gifts.

After her aunt’s passing, Rachel decided to create the baskets as a way to keep the memory of her aunt alive.

“I wanted to make other people happy, so I decided to do it,” she said.

Making the baskets involves cutting old cards into patterns and then sewing them together.

Rachel originally made the baskets for family members and elderly members at her church. She also gave one to art teacher Karen Blaisdell.

“Mrs. Blaisdell mentioned that student council needed something to take to the residents at the nursing homes and I knew this was the perfect gift,” Rachel said.

Blaisdell said Kwisnek did the bulk of the work by gathering the cards, gluing them to cardboard, cutting them out and sewing the bottoms together.

“It was an amazing feat for her to create 90 baskets just for this project alone,” Blaisdell said. “She then brought them to school with sewing needles for her art classmates to finish them. Three classes worked for two days to finish the baskets.”

On Friday, student council members delivered 100 card baskets filled with candy canes to residents at Rebekah Manor and visitors at the Ebensburg Senior Activities Center.

“It’s like getting a Christmas card but better because you are looking at a bunch of pictures that go together, and it tells a story,” Rachel said. “It really shows the idea of Christmas in one beautiful item.”

She added that she loved the feeling of spearheading the project.

“I really like Christmas because it is based on giving back to others, and that’s what I really wanted to do with this project,” Rachel said.

Student council adviser Joe Skura said the project was creative and beautiful, and most importantly, came from the heart.

“Rachel put so much heart and soul into this, and she is genuinely happy that she is able to brighten the Christmas of others,” he said.

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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