Baskets of Hope 2019

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 tenth annual Baskets of Hope charity this holiday season.

According to a press release, every 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.”

This year, WISE is aiming for a 100 basket goal because they have added a women’s shelter to the list that will benefit from the charity: Wytheville, Va.

“Before we had about 70 baskets, but we have added Wytheville and we usually give out about 25 to 30 baskets per location,” Connie Saunders, President of WISE said. “If we get more, we will keep some here for women who come in through the year for an emergency.”

Anyone can donate a basket to the program. WISE asks that participants buy baskets and fill them with a variety of items. Saunders said a helpful way to think of things to put in the basket is to go through a morning routine.

“If you imagine that you are a woman and you do not have anything, there is nothing you do not need,” Saunders said. “You need the basics. How do I take a shower? How do I wash my hair? How do I brush my teeth? Do I have toothpaste? There is no particular item, it is like a routine. What is my day, what do I need?”

A press release from WISE suggests the following items be included in the basket: one size fits all pajamas, leisure clothing, socks, undergarments, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, a comb, a brush, deodorant, lotion, feminine products, soap, a journal, a pen, chocolate and other comfort items, a generic toy for the child they may have with them and inspirational reading about positive thoughts on life.

“She is probably not going to have a lot of clothes, so we always try to give them pajamas and something to get under and take a nap, so we always try to give them a throw,” Saunders said. “We give them inspirational reading and a notebook because the first thing she is going to have to do is get a plan in place. She is going to be talking to an advocate and write down what happened.”

Saunders also encouraged basket-assemblers to get creative and of course, include a Christmas card.

“You can personalize your own basket, put a card in there and maybe it just says, ‘Merry Christmas.’ WISE puts something in here that says that we are here for them if they need any clothes or services,” Saunders said. “You can get creative. Someone asked me, ‘What if the item is not on the list, but I think it is needed? I said, ‘Put it in there.”

Saunders suggested getting a group together to make a basket and each person bring something to put in the basket. In an office, the assignments would be easy to divide up and she said, before you know it, you have a basket.

The basket itself is important in the process. Saunders said the woman may go back to her situation and if they leave again, they can use the basket to pack in, and maybe they will remember through the basket that there are people at WISE that care about them.

“It is not a pretty picture and it is not a tied up package and they are all different. You cannot just open up a shelter and think that will fix this,” Saunders said. “Some of them are afraid that if they go back home, they will get stuck in the same cycle. We do not want to judge them, hopefully, this will give them hope that there are people who care and wish them well and do not judge them.”

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. “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.”

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

— Contact Emily Rice at

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