That’s A Wrap

While guests view the auction and raffle baskets at this Friday’s Light Up a Life Gala, two volunteers will be taking a much deserved break.

Carolyn Arlen and Kate Uberti have spent countless hours in the basement of Angela Hospice putting those baskets together over the last few weeks: making sure every item is showcased, double-checking that auction items won’t fall out when the basket is picked up, and using the right colors so nothing clashes.

Kate Uberti (left) and Carolyn Arlen (right) have spent
the last few weeks creating dozens of baskets.
“They not only have to look pretty but they have to be ergonomically correct,” Carolyn said.

That means doing much more than just putting some items in a basket, throwing a bow on it, and calling it done. The average basket takes them about 20 minutes to create, but there are others that take much longer. Kate said one basket took her nearly an hour because items kept falling over. Carolyn has experienced items that are tricky to incorporate too.

Luckily though, they have each other.

Being able to work together is a key to their success, and both women laugh when asked about why they think they make such a good team, saying they aren’t sure. But, after some thought, they both agree that they’ve learned to work off of each other’s strengths.

“I’ve tried to mimic her creative vibe, and she’s tried to mimic my ability to structure,” Kate said.

“See, it’s like an old married couple,” Carolyn laughed. “But I think basically we just lucked out. We’re both pretty creative.”

Both women also have the same work ethic, Kate said. They put their noses down and get to work, which is essential when you have dozens of baskets to create.

While their strengths differ they have a similar process when it comes to creating baskets. First, they have to figure out all the components of the gift. Then, the search is on for what they’re going to display it in. After that, they have to create some sort of base for everything to rest on, like crumbled up paper. Next, they start anchoring items by wiring or taping them in. They’ve even had to sew a few items in. Last, and this is Carolyn’s favorite part, they have to dress it up and add all the color and the bows.

“To me, that’s kind of it,” Kate said.

“Ditto!” Carolyn laughed.

While the work is hard both said that it’s fun to see all the items before everyone else, a prime time to pick which items they want to bid on, and pick a favorite. Kate’s partial to the stuffed Peanuts gang all dressed in University of Michigan clothing. Carolyn really likes an artistic ceramic bowl.

It’s hard to believe that this is only the third time they’ve worked together, and that they haven’t been friends for decades.

One of Kate's favorite baskets, which also took
nearly an hour to create.
Neither Carolyn nor Kate had any experience in creating gift baskets before. Well, Kate does them for friends, but never at this capacity. It was a slightly daunting task when they did this for the first time for Angela Hospice’s Laughter Lifts You Up earlier this year, an event that had 1,000 women in attendance and nearly 90 baskets to create. That was also the first time the two had met.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I can’t believe the two of us are doing this,” said Kate, who was nervous at first.

She wasn’t alone.

“That first day I left, I had a headache and I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Carolyn said.

But the next day she decided to come in with a different attitude, which made all of the difference.

“I thought, ‘You know what? I’m a volunteer and I can do the best I can.’ Then you start to get the hang of it,” Carolyn continued.

“You get better as you go,” Kate said.

Now they can take items and make them look irresistible.

“Because of the way we wrapped it,” Carolyn said.

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