DENVER — A holiday fruit basket donation program distributed more than 6,700 fruit baskets to senior citizens.

The Basket of Joy program is in its 23rd year and has distributed more than 135,000 baskets that have been shared by more than 300,000 people.

Basket of Joy gives more than 6,700 fruit baskets

Tom Karst

Denver Basket of Joy organizers Denny Gray (left), a financial assets manager, and Dan Sutton, director of produce procurement for Albertsons LLC, are pictured with Mary Cromwell, longtime volunteer with the holiday basket program. Basket of Joy provided 6,700 fruit baskets to isolated senior citizens in the Denver area.

The program began in 1988 at the suggestion of Dan Sutton, director of produce procurement for Albertsons LLC, Boise, Idaho. Sutton wrote a letter to Woody Paige, then a columnist with The Denver Post, about the plight of two elderly sisters who had been victims of a swindle by a financial planner. Sutton provided two fruit baskets for Paige to present to the sisters that year and the following Christmas the paper’s readers contributed enough money to distribute 5,000 fruit baskets to “socially isolated” senior citizens. A foundation associated with The Denver Post provides the nearly $40,000 needed to buy fruit and other supplies.

Coordinated by the Denver office of the Volunteers of America, about 300 volunteers help build the fruit baskets and up to 800 others deliver them. Sutton said children of some of the first volunteers now take part.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It has become a family tradition.”

Denny Gray, an asset manager in the Denver area, has helped organize Basket of Joy since the first year. Fruit baskets have been assembled at the Denver Mattress Factory for the past five years and that is expected to continue. Gray credited the company’s ongoing sacrifice and participation in the work.

This year, the fruit baskets required 400 cartons of red grapefruit, 125 cartons of red delicious apples, 125 cartons of golden delicious apples, 113 cartons of navel oranges, 100 cartons of concorde pears and 150 cartons of tangerines.