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7Everyday Hero Denny Gray leads Basket of Joy

Volunteers helps provide holiday baskets
Posted at 8:42 AM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 10:48:43-05

The holidays are time for family and friends to gather together. But there are thousands of Coloradans who are shut-ins, and rarely see visitors.

7Everyday Hero Denny Gray has been working the last thirty Christmases to change that. 

Gray organizes a project called Basket of Joy, where hundreds of Coloradans gather to make a difference. 

"This is a community of people that have come together to wrap baskets for those who might not have any gifts at Christmastime," said Gray. 

The volunteers make thousands of fruit baskets. 

"5,280 of them. In the baskets are 17 pieces of fruit, five pieces of candy, a Christmas card that is a holiday card," said Gray. 
It all started when four friends put their heads together back in 1987. 

Denny, Linda Dee with the Volunteers of America, Dan Sutton with Albertsons and Denver 7's own Woody Page. 

Back then Paige wrote a human interest column for the Denver Post.
He discovered two women, alone and down on their luck, and wrote about them in the paper. 

"I asked people in the column to send me holiday cards.  And I went to Dan at Albertson's, and I said: 'Can you make me a big fruit basket?'" explained Paige. 

Paige and the others quickly learned there are thousands who are alone during the holidays. 

"I thought there are too many lonely and elderly people," said Paige. 

"Approximately 67,000 of these people were women who lived alone under the poverty line," added Gray. 

So, Gray became a kind of general manager of Basket of Joy. That means he starts preparing months ahead of the holidays. 

"I probably spend in excess of 350-hours on this," said Gray. 

Gray is the head of the program, and Sutton helps secure the cases of fruit. 

"I help line up the supplies and help Denny with the backstage logistics," said Sutton. 

And today, 30-years later, hundreds of families volunteer to make the baskets. 

As does Safeway, Bellco, Innovage, the Denver Post and Denver Mattress, which provides the warehouse space. 

And the baskets of joy are whisked away to people who are alone for holidays. 

"They may not have any other connection with another human being during the holidays, and we make that happen," said Gray. 

"The people who get baskets don't have anyone else for Christmas," said Sutton. 

But thanks to Denny Gray and hundreds of volunteers they do get a Basket of Joy cheerfully delivered right to their door. 

Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on 7NEWS. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.