Cindy Chappell (right) holds the a Coach bag that she won in the highest bidding auction last Friday evening. The bag was donated by Karen Gertzen (left), a Williams Lake realtor. Kathy McLean photo.

Handbags for Hope raises more than $9,000 for anti-violence programs

Money raised from event goes towards violence-prevention programs for women

Handbags of all shapes, sizes and colours were auctioned off last Friday evening at the seventh annual Handbags for Hope event, an annual fundraiser for the Women’s Contact Society.

“We had over 70 women there and the proceeds were just over $9,000 so it was our best-ever event,” said Irene Willsie, executive director of the Women’s Contact Society.

The highest selling purse – a Coach bag donated by Karen Gertzen, a Williams Lake realtor – went for over $700.

“That was pretty fantastic” said Willsie, added that they auctioned off 45 different bags, ranging from high end designer purses, to beach baskets and backpacks.

Each bag also had a mystery prize, as an added twist.

Aside from auctioning off handbags, the event also raises awareness about domestic violence and women’s safety.

“If a woman is strong and empowered, she is less likely to be a victim of violence,” said Willsie, so the money raised from the event goes into workshops, education, events and support groups.

“It’s really important that we talk about domestic violence and sexual violence because in traumatic situations, the stress of events [like the wildfires] the result is that we see a spike in the incidence of violence in relationships and we are definitely seeing that,” she said.

“It’s good that we’ve had so many women come out to support a function that supports other women.”

The support from the community has been phenomenal, she said, especially considering what everyone faced through the summer last year.

“This spring people are still in a state of recovery but we got very generous donations and obviously a very generous response and I am thrilled because businesses are still recovering financially and yet they dug deep and supported this event.”

Next up for the women’s centre is the annual Children’s Festival in Boitanio Park, set for May 27. The day will start at 10 a.m. and is “loaded with free activities for children,” said Willsie.

The annual event has been a lakecity staple for more than 30 years.

Magician Clinton W. Grey will be on hand for the event, and there will be activities from arts and crafts to storytelling and puppetry.

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