The First Basket

Our Story


In mid-2016, marketing director-turned-missionary, John Craig, was looking for help with a new website to support his mission in Rwanda. He reached out to Mark Dirks, Beacon’s CEO, with whom he collaborated on a project years earlier.  On a Christmas holiday visit to the States the same year, John stopped by Beacon’s offices to discuss progress and drop off a “thank you” gift – a beautiful, handmade African basket. He also shared stories from his mission in Rwanda. Particularly gripping were John's recollections of children suffering from malnutrition, stunted growth, poverty, and the effects of the genocide. There was a clear need for help.  


John's stories touched Mark and started his wheels turning on how he and Beacon could help more. John had shared information about the "Hope on A Thousand Hills" program, a project of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, which aimed to build preschools that also offered feeding programs to its students.  They had already designed a fairly affordable prototype for such a school.  This program aligned perfectly with Beacon’s work in Higher Education and the company's commitment to supporting the local community (food banks, United Way).  Hope on A Thousand Hills just needed funding.  So the question was, How?


The African basket that John brought back from Rwanda kept attracting Mark's attention.  Maybe selling the baskets could help fund the school building project?  Through serendipity, a couple of weeks later, Mark would secure a pivotal partner in the venture.

During a meeting with Maxine Burton, COO of burton+Burton®, long-time friend and Beacon customer, she mentioned an interest in extending their benevolence beyond their local community to help a Third World country. Family-owned burton+Burton® is the largest balloon and coordinating gift distributor in the world with over 100,000 clients, from large grocery chains to small boutique shops. And, yes, they already sell baskets!

This couldn't be a coincidence, could it?  Perhaps a higher power was at work?

Mark shared the basket sales idea and the Weaving Hope mission was born. The venture continues to benefit from burton+Burton's product merchandising and distribution experience and Beacon’s web design and marketing expertise.



Mark, Maxine and their companies spent most of 2017 planning. They developed a business plan, commissioned several basket designs, made sure the baskets met U.S. regulations (particularly CA Prop 65), and organized logistics around packing, inspections and shipping - taking into account the difficulties presented by Rwanda's rainy seasons.  Early in 2018, with a lot of on-the-ground help from John in Kigali (Rwanda's capital), basket production finally got underway.



In June 2018, Mark and his wife, Tracy (also a Beacon executive), and Maxine and her son, Michael (b+B Account Executive) traveled to Rwanda to meet the basket weavers and visit several schools to get a better grasp on local conditions and needs.  They met with Rene Hirwa, Director of Education for Hope on A Thousand Hills and with Abraham Konga, Retailer and Consultant working with the basket weavers in Gitarama (a Women’s Cooperative helping women overcome poverty and gender-based violence). And “super” host and guide, John Craig, organized all the critical meetings and travel to make the most of the trip.


We were proud to launch the Weaving Hope website, and this basket-selling fundraising initiative on August 15, 2018… almost 2 years after the initial idea was sparked.  Words can't descirbe how happy we are to see our team efforts come to fruition.  We hope to raise enough funds to change lives in Rwandan communities with better education opportunities and improved nutrition.  It's all about teamwork and hope.