February is the season of red: red hearts, red hot dates, and red roses. For some women, the season of red includes red marks and bloody noses.
National Crime Victimization Survey collected data from 2003 to 2012 on domestic violence. The data collected showed violence between intimate partners accounted for 15% of all violent crimes.
Around the same time this data was being collected, Toby Fisher was in a CVS on Valentine’s Day. There was a row of toys eighty percent off. He had to buy them because why not they were a great deal. Standing in front of the toys he could hear his wife in his head, ‘You have a shopping addiction. You have to buy it if it is on sale whether you need it or not.’ After a brief pause, he looked at his son and came up with a solution. There was a women’s shelter just up the street from his house. Problem solved! He could buy these toys which were incredibly discounted because they have a place to go. He added a few Valentine’s Day cards and bags into his cart and checked out. Him and his son packaged up the toys and drove up the street to the women’s shelter. The secured facility, fenced in was off the beaten path to help protect the women inside. He had only known about the facility since he had lived in the town for so long.
He buzzed the door. The workers at the front desk let him through carrying Valentine’s Day bags. “Yeah, just put those in the back.”, they said. As many of us know, most women shelters are locked down and restricted from visitors. On this day, something intervened; whether it may have been God, fate, or another higher power. He found himself in the middle of a huge room filled with women and children. The concrete walls were dingy and lack of any decorations as the women and child sat melancholy. “Not a smile on a face”, recalls Toby creator of a local charity in Boston, Valentine’s Day Basket Brigade. His charity started that very moment. He and his son stood in the middle of the room unsure of what to do next, within seconds those melancholy faces started to smile. A moment later it was like Christmas.
The next couple of years he continued to donate Valentine’s gifts to women shelters. His kindness spread. Family members and friends started helping with fifty dollars here or twenty dollars there. With this help, he moved from bags into baskets. In those first few years, Valentine’s Day Basket Brigade could donate twenty or thirty baskets. Almost eight years later, they are now donating over 300 baskets. The last four years alone they have donated well over a thousand baskets to different organizations throughout Boston. He says “Around Boston, we give a lot around Thanksgiving.” After the new year, the air of charity in Boston changes. He realized in that room 8 years ago, the need doesn’t stop after the holidays.
“There are people who need support and love on any
random day of the year.” – Toby Fisher
Over the years, he has experienced helping different organizations and people. Once The Valentine’s Day Basket Brigade donated an extra-large basket to a local family whose house had a fire. There have been Valentine’s Days where a few extra things were put together to just hand out to homeless men, women, and children on the street. The smile on their face is worth everything. There was a year he worked with some nuns who were assisting women escaping the sex traffic trade. The nuns took the baskets off to a secret location. Later, he realized women in such terrible situations may have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. If they have, most often than not, there are strings attached. His gifts of love come with no strings attached. These baskets are unexpected gifts meant to be anonymous. The Valentine’s Day Basket Brigade only wants the receipt to know a caring person out in the world wishes them the best on Valentine’s Day.
This is such a simple idea. A card a and a small gift to a person in need on Valentine’s Day. A friend of Toby’s in Texas reached out to him asked how he did the donations. It is easiest enough to find a local shelter and dropping off a few gift bags. His friend became a part of The Valentine’s Day Brigade all the way in Texas. A simple idea with such a significant outcome.
Toby invites you to like The Valentine’s Day Basket Brigade Facebook page.
Share in the comments if you will join The Valentine’s Day Brigade in your corner of the World.