For five years, women in Southern Saratoga have been collecting backpacks, school supplies and everyday personal care items for Baskets of Hope, a program to support women and families who have been victims of domestic abuse and are staying at the Domestic Violence Shelter, a product of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County.
`So often, coming in after a crisis, they never thought they [women] would suddenly end up homeless and they’re worried about their children, cat or dog and what tomorrow’s going to bring. The last thing they’re thinking about is themselves and this is a little reminder to care about yourself too,` said Maggie Fonk, executive director of domestic violence and rape crisis services of Saratoga County.
When the Southern Saratoga Women in Business Committee was originally formed, its members were eager to find a community service initiative they could really get behind and devote their energy to, said Liz Roggenbuck, manager of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga member services. She said Baskets of Hope feeds into the members’ business vision while allowing them to give back in a way that’s important to them.
`Everyone was immediately drawn to it [supporting the shelter] and there was a lot of engagement. I think the women really appreciate the opportunity, with their busy business lives, to give back to other women less fortunate,` said Roggenbuck. `It keeps growing and donations keep coming in; they have really taken it to heart.`
Members of the committee encourage the community to donate women’s personal care items like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, which are assembled into more than 350 gift baskets/bags each year and given to victims entering the shelter. Backpacks and school supplies collected through the summer support children staying at the shelter. Roggenbuck said the women hope the recipients take comfort in knowing there are people in their own community who care and want to help.
Fonk said the baskets are periodically given out to nonresidential clients too, who are struggling to begin a new life.
`There are women who are newly single parent, head of household, trying to balance work or court dates and things that go with being a domestic violence victim. They don’t have money to spend on themselves and this is a little pick me up and reminder to take care of themselves too,` said Fonk.
Fonk said she can tell how much the residents appreciate receiving the bags or baskets and what it means to them to realize they’re not alone.
`Every single domestic violence victim thinks she’s the only one it happens to; she feels alone, scared and embarrassed and yet to know people out there care about you and it makes them feel better to know they’re not the only ones,` said Fonk.
Donations can be brought to the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County at 15 Park Ave. in Clifton Park. Fonk said she encourages anybody who needs help or knows someone who does, to call the hotline number at 584-8188 and stressed that all services are free and confidential.