Old Forge resident uses her talents to spread joy during pandemic
By Jamie Organski
A hearty, resilient bunch, Adirondackers will be the first to fess up that although living in the North Country is not always easy, it is worth it. In many cases. what small, rural communities lack in amenities, they succeed in supplementing with a whole lot of compassion, camaraderie and heart.
Just ask Old Forge resident, Bonnie Baker, who has worked at the Old Forge Hardware store for 28 years. Baker and store co-owner Erica Murray, who runs the business with her husband, Terry, came up with an idea to help spread a little cheer during a time when many people felt lost and uncertain. It was April of 2020 and the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had many feeling overwhelmed, lonely and mentally- and physically-drained.
“Erica’s mother-in-law, Gail, called us up and asked if there was a way to send a basket full of goodies to her sister who was having a hard time,” Baker said. “[Thanks to Gail’s inquiry,] we came up with the idea for ‘happy baskets,’ realizing that many people wanted to reach out to others to help brighten their days during a time when the pandemic was really ramping up and many people were in lockdown and feeling disconnected. We wanted to bring a little sunshine into people’s lives. I think just about everyone needed a little extra ‘happiness’.”
And as it turns out, the Old Forge Hardware Store crew was spot on. As of this month, Baker has either shipped or personally delivered more than 400 baskets, including more than 100 out of state.
A process that has evolved over the past several months, Baker had the opportunity to flex her creative muscles designing gift baskets. Themes include Spa, Crafts, Bar, Snacks, I’m Bored, Love of the Adirondacks, Family Night, Game Night, Favorite Man, Housewarming, and much more.
From there, Baker decided to expand the service to include made-to-order baskets. This way, the person sending the basket has the opportunity to hand-select the items to include and tailor them accordingly. Any item the hardware store carries is game when it comes to arranging a happy basket. Coffee, tea, mugs, soap, socks, candles, books, snacks, syrup, and Adirondack-themed items, have proven to be crowd-pleasers, according to Baker.
Baker said she enjoys putting care into preparing the happy baskets, knowing the baskets have a profound therapeutic effect. Always one to do whatever she can to make someone laugh, Baker sometimes dons an inflatable dinosaur costume during a birthday or anniversary basket delivery. Locals have come to recognize Baker’s happy basket deliveries to be wholesome, heartwarming occasions and at times, theatrical. During deliveries, Baker publicly recites a heartfelt message as to why the recipient is deserving of recognition, which often concludes in applause.
“The personal touch of tailoring each basket to the recipient really hit home for people,” Baker said. “They were loving it. In many cases, when I would deliver a basket to someone, they would be in tears and so would I by the end of my speech. It has been a very touching and emotional experience for so many people. Many folks started to order baskets anonymously for us to deliver to local essential workers to thank them for all they have done for the community during the pandemic. Their dedication to the community and the sacrifices they have made to help us as we continue to pull through this pandemic has not gone unnoticed. The response has been incredible.”
Those interested in ordering a happy basket can call
the Old Forge Hardware Store at (315) 369-6100
and ask to speak with Bonnie Baker.
The happy baskets are available for $50 to $100
and can be shipped or delivered to a local home, business or establishment.