By Aileen Goldstein
A gift basket is not always just a gift basket. A gift basket from Aunt Laurie’s is much more.
Laurie Brown, a petite woman with short blond hair and huge passion, calls her baskets special gifts made by very special people. Brown’s baskets include items that are either locally made or created by individuals with disabilities and oftentimes both.
The sturdy baskets themselves are made by hand by disabled clients at the South Carolina Vocation Rehab Center in Beaufort. Once the weaving is complete, those same clients fill, wrap, package and ship the baskets to lucky recipients.
Customers are able to customize baskets with anything from candles to dog biscuits to coffee to brittle. Brown has a long list of available items. There are ceramic dog bowls painted by clients of Programs for Exceptional People, a Hilton Head center that employs people with intellectual disabilities.
Some of the candles and body care items are made by an organization called Extraordinary Ventures, employing adults with autism. Brown donates a percentage of her profits to other organizations, including Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Brown is passionate about helping people with disabilities and believes in “inspiring others to acknowledge human value in everyone.”
“Everyone has different capabilities,” she said.
Brown spent nearly 30 years deep in the automotive industry and realized one day the work was not fulfilling her. She is only a year and a half into her new direction in life and is already surpassing her own goals. Among her accomplishments is winning the 2016 Golden Oyster award from the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce for Best Start Up of the Year.
Brown has a vision for her small company: She eventually wants to open her own vocational center and employ young adults with disabilities.
Meanwhile, she serves on the boards of Action for Autism and the Palmetto Animal League and she is eager to network with more organizations and share her vast knowledge and expertise through mentoring and partnerships. The baskets created by Brown and her “family” benefit more than just the recipient.
Aunt Laurie’s baskets can be found at www.auntlauries.com.
Photo at top: Laurie Brown holds a completed Aunt Laurie’s basket. Many items are made by members of the community with disabilities.