Baskets: Debra Mitchum, a Longaberger consultant who lives west of Holland, has more than 9,700 pieces of Longaberger baskets, pottery, decorations and other products. She is now the only Longaberger saleswoman allowed to sell the specially-made baskets, which have the Ruritan logo burned into the lids and feature blue and yellow trim.

Archived Story

Special baskets benefit Ruritans

Published 11:36pm Saturday, November 10, 2012

Debra Mitchum is crazy about Longaberger.

The Longaberger consultant who lives west of Holland has more than 9,700 pieces of Longaberger baskets, pottery, decorations and other products. She’s not sure how much more — that’s when the insurance agent told her to stop counting.

So when she discovered a secondary love — Ruritans — she knew just how to combine them.

“Ruritans are 100-percent American made, and we’re 100-percent American-made,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I make baskets in Ruritan colors, with their logo?’”

Mitchum knew little about Ruritans until she moved two doors down from the Grassfield Ruritan Club hall in Chesapeake. She noticed they were always having food sales and other fundraisers and inquired about where the money went.

“They make a lot of money and then give it all away,” she said. “I thought that was just amazing.”

Five years ago, she and her husband moved to their new home near Holland, where the community service organization was founded in 1928.

“I found out that I was living in the birthplace of Ruritan,” she said.

After she came up with the idea for special Ruritan Longaberger baskets, it was a hard-fought battle to get Ruritan National to allow her to use their logo. Once they gave her permission, though, she was off and running.

She is now the only Longaberger saleswoman allowed to sell the specially-made baskets, which have the Ruritan logo burned into the lids and feature blue and yellow trim. They come in several different sizes and shapes that correspond to pottery and coolers that fit inside.

“They have never in the history of Ruritan let anybody do what I’m doing,” Mitchum said.

The best part about the baskets? The Ruritans get a percentage of sales, which helps enable them to continue their good work.

“They do amazing, amazing things, and I love the fact they don’t brag about it or toot their own horns,” Mitchum said. “Now I get to tell everybody about it.”

Mitchum already has sold Ruritan baskets to folks across the country buying them for Ruritan-loving friends and relatives. She attended this year’s Ruritan National convention to sell the baskets in a vendor area.

She hopes the baskets will become keepsakes for generations of Ruritans, passed down just the same as membership in the club.

“My real intent in doing these baskets was that hope people would buy them and hand them down generationally,” she said.

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