Bileau's Flowers at 665 Diamond Hill Road is ready for Christmas, bedecked with red-bowed wreaths outside and a giant 54-gallon gift basket sitting on the counter inside waiting for the winner of a Christmas Eve raffle.
The raffle, $1 for one chance to win, or $5 for six chances, is an annual fundraiser for Because He Lives Ministries, a soup kitchen run out of the basement of All Saints Parish at 323 Rathbun St. by Pat Dempster.
Because He Lives has been feeding locals in need for more than 25 years. Demptster had to move the kitchen from the basement of First Baptist Church in February of 2011 because of a mold problem. She took the kitchen on the road, serving meals throughout that summer from World War II Memorial State Park, and briefly from the church's parking lot before finding a new home at All Saints and a warm welcome from the pastor, Ftr. Dennis Reardon. They've been there almost a year now.
"It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience here. I can't say enough about Ftr. Reardon," Dempster said.
As for the raffle, Dempster said the annual donation from the fundraiser has been a tremendous help. Last year, the fundraiser brought in $1,672, said Bileau's co-owner Jeanne Bis. The year before that, they raised $1,543.
While Bileau's donates the basket itself, the fundraiser is an group effort, Bis said. "This is a community thing," she stressed Monday as the shop's radio played Jonn Dionne's show on WNRI in the background, with Dionne reciting the list of gifts in the basket and the details of the raffle.
Some of the items in the basket, valued at about $710, include a pair of Unitar camera binoculars, $29.99, a suede photo album, $29.99, two backpacks worth $30 and a Hello Teddy talking bear, $24.99 (see attached photo for the full list).
Dionne's been running regular announcements about the fundraiser, Bis said, and he's not the only one helping to make it a success. She also credited regular people who take the time to sell the raffle tickets - often selling hundreds of dollars worth of tickets for the cause. "I can donate what in the basket but I couldn't sell what I sell if it wasn't for the help that I get," Bis said.
This year, Because He Lives will be serving a Christmas Turkey Dinner, Dempster said, and while they have all the volunteers they need, they're looking for about 20 turkeys for the dinner.
Because He Lives is now open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. They're open Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Dempster said donations, whether they're food, money, or gift cards from Stop & Shop or Price Rite, are welcome during those hours. She said donations can also be mailed to Because He Lives, PO Box 37, Woonsocket, RI 02895.