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Shrewsbury Biz Owner Organizes Basket Brigade

The annual effort brought turkey and all the trimmings to almost 300 families last year.

Sometimes when you're at your lowest point, reasons Melissa Clifton, the best thing you can do is help someone else.

So five years ago following the end of her marriage, Clifton, who owns Arch Brow + Beauty Bar in Shrewsbury, traveled to upstate New York to take part in a Basket Brigade that delivers Thanksgiving meals to those in need.

The effort was inspired by self help author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins' childhood experience, and Clifton, an Oceanport resident, says that that spoke to her.

"The holidays can be a difficult time for so many," she says. "I wanted to make a new tradition for me and my son."

The following year, Clifton organized her own Basket Brigade with friends and distributed 44 meals on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at about $40 apiece. Each year since, the volunteers and number of meals have doubled so that in 2011, about 100 volunteers packaged and delivered almost 300 dinners.

The group gets names through local charities like Aslan Youth Ministries, the Valerie Fund, Hope for Children and the Beauty Foundation and each family gets an uncooked turkey accompanied by a brimming basket of trimmings. Each basket --- which is actually a large aluminum pan -- is filled with all the basics, like stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberries and pies as well as a loaf of bread and mayo for Thanksgiving leftovers.

"Here's the clincher," says Clifton, "everything is delivered anonymously. Volunteers just say that they are delivering for someone else."

Each meal is accompanied by a note card that reads: This gift comes from someone who cares about you and all you are asked is to take care of yourself so that you can return the favor some day."

This year, the brigade will move its yearly gathering from Clifton's Oceanport home to Sansone Jr's Route 66 Auto Galleria in Neptune.

Donations can be mailed or dropped it off to Arch Brow Bar, 782 Broad St. Shrewsbury, NJ 07702. Checks should be made out to, "The Basket Brigade" and cash is also welcome.

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