Mission Africa, based out of Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills, has partnered with Women's Bean Project, a nonprofit organization that helps impoverished women get back on their feet.

For the holiday season and up until April 2011, anyone can go on Women's Bean Project website, www.WomensBeanProject.com, and purchase gourmet food items, gift baskets and handmade jewelry, and enter a promotional code which will give 35 percent of the order to Mission Africa.

The goods are produced by women who are chronically unemployed and impoverished, Development director Diana Lachiondo said. Located in Denver, the organization acts as a place of transition for these women, many of whom are recently released ex-felons.

"Seventy percent of the women that come here graduate from our program," Lachiondo said. "If they don't, they weren't ready to change their lives."

The biggest change the women make is going from the mindset of "when" are they going to find a job, to "where," Lachiondo said. After they enter the program, 70 percent of their time is spent making the food items or jewelry and the other 30 percent is spent working with job coaches to do mock interviews or get help with their resumes.

"We are here to help build up their skills," Lachiondo said.

Women's Bean Project started in the basement of a homeless shelter in 1989. Now, 21 years later, they sell their products in 450 stores in 40 states and have an operating budget of $1.7 million.

"What makes us a little different is that we are a social enterprise in that 70 percent of income comes through the sale of our products and the rest comes from donations," Lachiondo said. "We shipped 879 boxes yesterday...and have 60-70 women working here right now."

Proceeds from online sales that go to Mission Africa will help the organization in myriad of ways. Currently the group from MVLC is working on several projects to benefit a village in Sapele, Nigeria including providing text books, medical supplies and clean water.

To help out Mission Africa and Women's Bean Project, visit the website and enter promotional code AFRICA11 on your order form, and also indicate "supporting Mission Africa" in the comments section. To find out more information about Mission Africa, visit www.MissionAfrica.org.

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