WILMINGTON — For victims of domestic violence, sometimes the most difficult thing to do is get back on your feet. That’s where Operation Pretty Things comes in, working to “reintroduce survivors to the workplace and society.”
The non-profit organization was founded in 2007, growing out of a Christmas gift exchange shared by Executive Director Missy Boneske and a small group of friends.
According to a study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, approximately 1 in 3 women suffer from domestic abuse, and Boneske and her team wanted to do something to help those in need.
“We wanted to do something more outreachy, rather than just exchanging gifts with each other Boneske said. “We decided we would make a few little gifts for the local domestic violence shelter. So, we went home, and collected all sorts of little pretty things, and made about a dozen gifts. We stuffed them with tissue paper, and I was fortunate enough to be the one to deliver them.”
Seeing the “tragic reality” of these women’s situations, and the hope the gifts brought inspired her to repeat the idea the following year, this time recruiting friends and family to send approximately 150 gifts to women across town.
Over the next few years, Boneske took on the cause full time, recruiting “women from all walks of life,” extending her efforts throughout the year to stock shelters with hand picked gifts, spreading into neighboring counties to provide victims with an “immediate glimpse of hope.”
“Each gift is hand picked items, from the cosmetics and makeup that are donated,” she said. “And probably my favorite part of what we get to do, but every gift gets a hand written love note from the woman that made it, and I just think it’s really, really special.”
Over the course of the past decade, Boneske says Operation Pretty Things has been apart of the rehabilitation of thousands of lives, allowing them to expand and aid more and more women each year.
Video: Chris, one of the women helped by Operation Pretty Things.
Helping victims begin again
These days, the organization has expanded across 16 counties in North Carolina, as well as parts of Florida, and New York.
The group has grown in other ways as well. Not have expanded their mission to include donations to shelters, providing everything from clothing for job interviews and court obligations to secure rides around town to keep women out of the reach of their abusers.
“We don’t just give gifts of pretty things, the shelters will call Operation Pretty Things with all kinds of needs that need to be met,” Boneske said. “If you google ‘What should a woman wear to a professional job interview?’ Almost every website for three pages will tell you you need to have some sort of application of makeup, hair, and nails, that’s expected of a woman.”
The problem, according to Boneske, is that often times these women escape from abusive situations in a hurry, leaving them with little to nothing to get back on their own two feet.
“It may sound cliche, but, unfortunately it is all too often a reality that a women will show up to a shelter with literally nothing but the clothes on their back,” she said. “And 9 out of 10 women that end up in shelters are moms, so they’ll remember their children’s favorite blanket or books. But, when it comes to their own comfort, that’s the last thing on their minds.”
Boneske said that many of these women are highly qualified for positions in the workforce, and often just need a little help to take advantage of opportunities.
In an effort to provide that help, the organization now holds several events throughout the year aimed at stockpiling the necessary goods, as well as an annual gala to raise the money necessary purchase and donate to the various “needs” of women through Operation Pretty Things.
“I say need, and I mean that truly and sincerely,” she said. “Shelters just do not have the funding to provide what we can give.”
The 2nd Annual OPT One Gala
This year will see the return of the 2nd Annual Opt One Gala, a black tie event that offers donors the chance to bid for items to help raise the money needed to support Operation Pretty Things mission of providing love and empowerment to victims of domestic violence.
But why black tie for a non-profit?
“I get asked that all the time,” Boneske said, “And I can truly say what inspired that idea, was that I truly want the people that attend to look, feel, and understand that this is how we want these women to feel when they receive our gifts. Just beautiful, and loved. And I think people get that.”
The money raised goes towards providing the shelters with necessary items as well as “tangible expressions of love.” Boneske said that last year’s event was a huge success, and hopes to make this year’s event even better.
The gala will be held Friday, October 6 at the Coastline Convention Center in downtown Wilmington. Tickets are $75, with several categories of sponsorship and donor levels available. For more information, and to view a full list of sponsors, visit operationprettythings.org/onegala17.
“I just want to love bomb the world, I see my self as sort of a love broker,” she said laughing. “That’s why we focus on the hope side, that there is a hope of a future without abuse for every woman, and she doesn’t have to get there alone.”