Raleigh nonprofit pays homeless women living wage to make tote bags amid pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While most of us were holed up in isolation in our warm homes this winter, women here in the Triangle are out in the cold with no place to live.

Beckey Hernandez, of Raleigh, was one of them.

"I was just more or less living on the streets and living in a tent, and it just, I was so confused with my life," she told ABC11.

So three local charities recently found a way to combine their efforts to raise cash to help Hernandez and other women like her find their way back to a sense of normalcy.

It's called the Triangle Impact Tote project, a project Hernandez recently took part in.

"The people here are wonderful. They've got a heart," Hernandez said.

The 59-year-old came to Raleigh three years ago but never found a steady job or a place to live.

Recently the people at The Women's Center in Raleigh asked if she might want to spend a couple of days helping put together tote bags at Designed for Joy studios where she would be paid $15 an hour.

When her time was up, she let the nonprofit's co-founder know how grateful she was.

"She said last week that those two days that she spent with us were the best days of her life," said Cary Heise, choking back tears.

She went on in a halting voice saying, "So when you're purchasing Designed for Joy I want you to know that you're making an impact on women here in Raleigh."

Heise gets emotional talking about the people Designed for Joy is helping.

The studio partnered with The Women's Center to provide some of the labor to make the totes.

And The Scrap Exchange in Durham joined the partnership and provided the materials.

"Our Triangle Impact Totes will be available mid-March," Heise said adding, "And you can certainly buy a tote, but you're welcome to stop by and shop in our studio on the weekends."

The bags which go on sale March 10, aren't just handmade, they're unique.

The $68 price tag will help ensure more help for more homeless women like Beckey Hernandez.

When they're done working on the tote project, Designed for Joy and The Women's Center will help the women try to find permanent work and a place to live.

"When she spends two days with us, we have a really good sense of her work ethic or her capabilities. So, just in those two days we can provide a solid job reference for her to go off and work for somebody else," Heise said.

Hernandez has now found an apartment and is hoping to get a job.

It's all thanks to the three charities.

"I just didn't think that there was people out there that really cared," Hernandez said with tears in her eyes, "And it's just nice to know that there are people out there that care."

If you want to help women like Hernandez, you can do it even if you can't afford a tote or can't leave your house during the pandemic.

This link to Designed for Joy's website will offer you other opportunities to volunteer.

FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.