Local Pair Creates Gift Baskets To Give Back
Benevolent Baskets Offers A Beautiful Product Which Provides Self-Sufficiency For Women In Transition
By Ellen Kinsella
Thanks to the internet, the gift-basket business has become a huge industry in the last decade. With the click of a mouse, its never been easier to send your niece a birthday basket. Two local women, however, have found a way to improve the booming industry.
Millersville resident Karen Lerario and former Severna Park resident Lesley Geisel brainstormed to create a company called Benevolent Baskets, a web-based gift-basket company which offers all the conveniences of commercial gift sites and employs formerly homeless women from My Sisters Place Womens Center to assemble baskets and fill orders.
We are empowering formerly homeless women who are seeking self-sufficiency, explained Lerario. They are making meaningful contributions for the greater good.
Lerario pointed out each gift basket they make contains at least one item that is handmade by the clients. For example, their Maryland basket features an apron hand-stenciled with a crab. The entire mood is lifted when the women are productive, she continued. We are in it for the mission.
Benevolent Baskets currently has 12 clients on the roster, all of whom live at My Sisters Place, and are in a two-year program to help them get back on their feet. Clients are tested, screened and committed to getting their lives in order, said Lerario. While they are in transition they get work from Benevolent Baskets. Although the clients do not get paid for their work, they learn valuable job skills and receive incentives, such as gift cards to Goodwill every two weeks, and additional benefits if they attend six sessions within two weeks. Mostly, they gain confidence. The affirmation is palpable noted Lerario.
Geisel and Lerario became acquainted many years ago when they worked at the Pathways Addiction Treatment Center. We both had a heart for women and addiction, explained Geisel, who also had a connection to food products from Christs Kitchen.
They formed Benevolent Baskets as a 501(c)(3) charity, and now have about a dozen women in the Severna Park/Annapolis area who regularly go into Baltimore to volunteer. They love it! exclaimed Geisel. Theyre on a journey, giving each other feedback and support.
Orders can be placed at www.benevolentbaskets.org, and can be shipped anywhere in the country for a very competitive price. As of now, there are 12 themed gift baskets available, for prices ranging from $15 to $59. Baskets can be customized, with add-ons available such as lotions and candles.
Volunteer openings are available for facilitating training sessions, designing/teaching a craft, assisting in the assembly of baskets, or soliciting community involvement and awareness.
To make a tax-deductible donation to Benevolent Baskets, you may donate online through their website, or mail a check to Benevolent Baskets, P.O. Box 556, Millersville, MD 21108. Gift cards are also welcome ($10 value) to Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree.