Latest News

The Blue Bird Circle’s Basket Brigade Is Back--A Houston Easter Tradition in Full Swing Again

Since 1924, the “Basket Birds”—The Blue Bird Circle’s regiment of volunteers­—has been making Easter baskets and decorating eggs to help provide funds for medical research. It’s just one of the ways this organization raises funds to support their mission to “provide hope, love, and healing for children with neurological disorders.”

It’s a longstanding tradition. In 1923, a group of 15 young women committed to giving back to the Houston community became The Blue Bird Circle and a local symbol of happiness, goodwill, and love. From its inception, the organization sought ways to raise money to support medical research and families with sick children. One of those fundraisers is the nearly 100-year-old Easter basket and Easter egg sale.

The project takes planning and coordination. Beginning in September, the Basket Birds, a core group of about 25 volunteers, begin turning ice cream cartons, crepe paper, and wire into colorful, flower-festooned Easter baskets. Each handmade basket takes 15 steps and about one week to complete. Blue Bird Circle’s beloved “Basket Queen,” Ms. Bertha Jamison, teaches the Basket Birds the art of making baskets and even takes the work home with her. Outside of the project room, Ms. Jamison built a bounty of over 100 baskets, and she’s still going! This year the Basket Birds’ goal is to make and sell 450 baskets.

But what would the baskets be without eggs? “Oh, there are eggs!” says Carolyn May, one of the Egg Chairs. This year the goal is to dye and decorate 5,400 ceramic eggs. About 75 volunteers assemble during Egg week to help with dipping, dying, and decorating. “When this project first started, the eggs were real, hard-boiled eggs,” explains Egg Co-chair Liana Hillendahl. Members boiled the eggs in First Methodist Church’s kitchen in the beginning. Later they used the Quillian Center to prepare then dye and decorate the eggs. “According to legend, the eggs that weren’t suitable for dying ended up as egg salad at Sakowitz’s department store restaurant,” states May, with a wink.

Today the eggs are ceramic. But that’s the only thing that’s changed. Volunteers still dye and decorate each egg. Not even a pandemic can stop them. Armed with eggs, stickers, brushes and paint, the egg ladies worked from home in 2021. Nothing could stop them from their mission.

This is a proud tradition for the Blue Bird Circle. “For almost 100 years, we’ve made this happen. The only time we couldn’t make the baskets was in 2021 and that was because of the restrictions from the pandemic,” explains one of the chairs of the Basket Committee, Lillie Beth Wilson. Jo Nell Keller, basket co-chair goes on to say, “There was just too much risk. We knew we’d be back in the basket business. We just had to wait it out. This year, the baskets are back and better than ever.”

The hand-made baskets and hand-decorated eggs go on sale March 19 at the Blue Bird Circle Resale Shop located at 615 W. Alabama. Besides The Blue Bird Circle Resale Shop, local shops, salons, and garden stores carry the limited supply. Bering’s Hardware, Briargrove Pharmacy, The Brookwood Community Shop and Garden Center, The Hive, and Beautique Salons are supporting the cause. Each basket sells for $18 and a package of six hand-decorated ceramic eggs sells for $14, tax excluded.

The Blue Bird Circle doesn’t put all its eggs in one basket. The volunteers work year-round to raise over $1 million dollars for research and for children living with neurological disorders. The Blue Bird Circle Resale Shop is a key resource for the funds. In 2019 the shop opened after an extensive renovation to improve the facility and experience for shoppers. The pandemic forced a temporary closure in March 2020, but the shop reopened in October 2020 when COVID restrictions lifted. Currently the shop is open four days a week with a goal of a five-day-a-week schedule—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10 3 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s a wonderful place to find gently used furniture, jewelry, clothing, and all kinds of treasures,” explains Marie Bell, the Circle’s president. “If you are downsizing or redecorating, cleaning out a closet or otherwise decluttering, our Shop accepts donations or we can sell your items on consignment,” she goes on to say. “Our Blue Birds are also known for the hand-crocheted baby blankets and embroidered tea towels. They make special, one-of-a-kind gifts.”

None of this happens without volunteers. “Our numbers are down, but our spirits are not. We know the children and their families, the doctors and nurses helping them, and the researchers working to find effective treatments and cures appreciate our efforts. They are dealing with devastating neurological disorders. Knowing that we can offer support, hope, and love is so rewarding,” says Gail Branca, Clinic Chair.

The pandemic forced another change upon The Blue Bird Circle and the families it serves. Volunteers helped staff the Blue Bird Clinic in Texas Children’s Hospital. The ladies wearing blue smocks and friendly smiles were a welcome face for the children and families. To follow the health and safety protocols that protected patients, staff, and volunteers, they stopped coming to the clinic. “We want to return. We need to return. But we need volunteers to make that a reality,” Branca further explains.

Having more volunteers means a lot for The Blue Bird Circle. With more volunteers, the Shop can stay open longer, which affects fundraising. More volunteers helps The Blue Bird Clinic continue to offer comfort, support, and a loving environment. “We offer a comprehensive training program for our volunteers. We pride ourselves on our focused mission as well as our tasks at the Shop and Clinic.  The Blue Bird Circle volunteers make a difference, for

families and the community as a whole.” says Bell.

Anyone interested in becoming a Blue Bird Circle volunteer can learn more at our website, or call 713.628.0470.