Baskets of Hope

This 2019 photo shows Connie Saunders, President of WISE demonstrates packing a ‘Basket of Hope,’ the organization’s annual holiday charity for women in domestic violence shelters.

BLUEFIELD — Women in Search of Empowerment (WISE) is holding its eleventh annual Baskets of Hope charity this holiday season.

Connie Saunders, the President of the 501c3 non-profit, Women in Search of Empowerment (WISE) said she founded the organization in 2004 with her daughters after seeing a need in the community for women who were looking for jobs and needed professional attire. WISE cli ents can be self-referred or referred by another local agency. Each client receives a week’s worth of clothes for free and can come back twice per year.

“The client can come in here and pick out what she wants but we will try to help them pick out items that they can mix and match so they do not need a lot of clothes,” Saunders said. “Anyone can come and shop here and anything you would purchase here would go to a special fund to buy shampoo, tampons, and other items that we include in the care packages.”

Each Christmas season, WISE remembers the women who struggle to find a better way of life, fleeing domestic violence, homelessness, or other challenges, who will have nothing for Christmas but this Basket of Hope. The kickoff began on Nov. 18.

According to a press release, each basket represents compassion and comfort gathered up and given to a woman at a local shelter in Beckley, Tazewell, or Welch during the holiday season.

“COVID has really changed the way we do things,” Saunders said. “Our reality is that the majority of women have difficulty getting to us. They have obstacles to the freedom of getting in a car and coming to WISE.”

The idea for Baskets of Hope came to Saunders when she started thinking about all the women and children that end up in domestic violence shelters around the holidays. She wanted this Basket of Hope to be their Christmas present, complete with a pretty bow.

“As we were working, people would start coming through the door and they were women who had been through domestic violence and they did not have anything but the shirt on their back and a story to tell,” Saunders said in 2019. “You end up running for your life and going to a shelter and you get there and all your Christmas is back at the house, so you do not have anything for Christmas. So we decided we would do Baskets of Hope in an effort to try to have something there in anticipation of them coming to shelters.”

Contact Connie Saunders at 304-324-5809 to inquire about volunteering with WISE.

WISE’s Baskets of Hope will be delivered to Tazewell, Va., Welch and Beckley this year. Baskets must be dropped off by December 15 at the WISE Office at 511 Commerce Street in Bluefield or Saunders Staffing at 400 North Street.

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com

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