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Published May 21, 2013, 11:35 PM

HerVoice: Woman turns apartment into Santa’s workshop to make gift baskets for homeless kids

WEST FARGO – Rosie Coleman lives in a small one-bedroom apartment that looks like it could double as Santa’s workshop.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

WEST FARGO – Rosie Coleman lives in a small one-bedroom apartment that looks like it could double as Santa’s workshop.

The West Fargo woman has filled her home with toys, books and other supplies she uses to make gift baskets for homeless children.

The baskets usually contain a doll or stuffed animal with a doll-sized blanket Coleman has crocheted or a quilt her sister has made along with a book, another small toy, pencils, crayons or jewelry.

“I keep in mind it has to be totable,” Coleman said. “It has to be something they can take with them wherever they go.”

The blankets are an important component of the gifts.

“To me a blanket means comfort, whether it’s full-sized or a 6-by-6 blanket that fits a beanie baby,” she said.

Coleman is wheelchair-bound and a recent cancer survivor. She lives on Social Security and spends some of her own money to buy the supplies for the gift baskets.

She also receives donations from others, which she washes before including in the baskets. She’ll open her apartment door and find a large bag full of stuffed animals or boxes full of books, she said.

“It’s just mushroomed,” she said of the project.

When she was buying discounted Easter toys recently, a lady overheard Coleman telling another woman what she was doing and she gave her $10 to buy more supplies.

“I teared up and thanked her,” she said.

Coleman’s friends and siblings also help by collecting supplies, sewing bags, pillow cases, and quilts or making handles for the baskets, she said.

“It’s fun,” Coleman said. “It’s like Christmas every day.”

Coleman’s project started when a woman at her church asked her if she could make church purses.

Church purses, also called cradle purses are crocheted tops attached to a plastic bottle base that has been cut and punched with holes along the top edge. It looks like a purse, but the top can be opened and flipped over the plastic base to become a baby cradle.

Then, by chance, Coleman met Susan Baron of West Fargo. Baron started “The Golden Drive for the Golden Children,” an organization that collects clothes and toys to donate to places like YWCA of Cass Clay and Churches United for the Homeless.

“We started talking about The Golden Drive and her immediate reaction was to help,” Baron said. “She is such a wonderful soul.”

Baron was able to take several bags worth of Coleman’s gift baskets to Churches United. The gifts arrived on a cold day in April that was covered in snow.

Jane Alexander, Churches United for the Homeless executive director said receiving the gifts “was like receiving a little spring.”

Aside from her nieces and nephews, Coleman has never met the children who receive her gifts, but she likes to think about them anyway. As she makes her gift baskets, she thinks about and prays for the children who will receive them.

“It just gives me so much pleasure I’m just ready to pop,” she said.

Crocheting is in her blood, Coleman said, adding that her mom, grandma, aunts and sisters are all crafty.

Coleman taught herself to crochet from a book as an adult, she said. At first it was a hobby. Now it’s become part of her passion to help others.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526