Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 16, 2013

Desire to serve

Co-founder of WISE committed to helping women in region

BLUEFIELD — A Bluefield, Va., native who grew up in a family that was committed to community service, has carried her personal desire to serve others to a fashion runway at the Bluefield Elk’s Lodge for the “Smart Fashion for WISE Women,” tonight. Gray Peretti has been working with WISE to assist disadvantaged women of the area to improve their wardrobes in order to enhance their future employment opportunities.

Peretti grew up in Bluefield, Va., with her parents, Rick and Connie Saunders, and her older siblings, Rick and Wendy. She attended Graham High School and was an active participant in the marching band, cheerleading team and a member of Sub Debs.  

Peretti attended Bluefield College for two years before transferring to Radford University as a junior and completed her bachelor’s degree in communication in 2002.

She currently resides in Bluefield, Va., with her husband, Anthony and 4-year-old son, Eli.

“I stayed here for the love of my family and this community. It was a wonderful, friendly and safe place to grow up and I couldn’t imagine raising my family anywhere else,” Peretti said.

“I am employed full time as a regional account manager with PracticeLink, an online physician job bank and magazine in Hinton,” she said. “In 2007, my mother, Connie Saunders, my sister, Wendy Philpott and I founded WISE (Women in Search of Empowerment). My mother spearheaded the nonprofit organization to assist disadvantaged women, and motivate them to enter the workforce by providing professional business attire and career counseling.”

Peretti currently serves as secretary of WISE/WV Community Services for Women, and for the last five years she has been the chairperson for the annual fashion show, which is the largest fundraiser WISE has.

“I also serve on the executive board of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce,” Peretti said.

Peretti said her mother has “a heart of gold” and has always advocated the importance of helping those who are less fortunate,

“I love to stay busy and volunteering my time is second nature to me,” Peretti said. “It is satisfying to know that someone who I have helped will pay it forward to someone else and that is what it is all about.”

WISE provides the ladies who are referred to the agency the tools they need in order to be empowered, confident and successful. The hope is that they will pass it on to other women in need, Peretti said.

“When we started WISE and began to assist our local disadvantaged women we learned quickly that people are a product of their own environment. I think often times it is easy to assume that someone is the way they are just because that is how they choose to live or want to be,” Peretti said.

“Volunteering my time means that I can take the values and encouragement that was instilled in me, and pass it on to those who may not have had the opportunity to witness that same behavior during their life thus far,” Peretti said.

Even though she is very busy, Peretti enjoys helping others and volunteering her time.

“ Knowing that I can help someone to know their own value and capability, that is so rewarding,” she said.

Peretti enjoys working and living in the area.

“I’m very lucky to have been able to find the perfect life/work balance and still be close to home,” she said.  

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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