Handbags for Hope raising money for anti-violence programs

Annual event to take place April 20

The seventh annual Handbags for Hope event is set to take place this Friday, April 20 at Signal Point.

“We want to specifically raise money to help do our prevention work around domestic violence and sexual violence,” said Women’s Contact Society executive director Irene Willsie.

“One of our main goals for our society is to help keep women and girls safe and help them have a healthier and safer life, so that is always on our mind and it takes money.”

The Handbags for Hope is a yearly event, that combines raising money, a fun evening, and of course, handbags in order to support the Women’s Contact Society’s violence prevention programs.

Each handbag is donated, and over the course of the evening, auctions, both silent and live, will be held to sell the bags to the highest bidder.

Each purse also comes with a mystery prize. Willsie said this year’s prizes range from anything from a necklace or a coupon, to a trip somewhere.

The handbags themselves range from a British designer bag, to a handwoven basket from Mexico and everything inbetween.

Tickets also come with a three-course dinner, and often the bidding for the bags can get quite competitive, said Willsie.

“Women really like the silent auctions because you are bidding on a bag and you are having fun and you have to keep an eye on it, and even then someone will sneak in and get the last bid just when you think you’ve got it.”

The event, of course, does include information about violence against women.

“Most of us know someone at some point in our life who has had this issue, or someone who is dealing with it now. If we don’t know anyone, it’s likely because we don’t realize that,” said Willsie.

Cases of domestic violence and sexual violence have gone up in the community post wildfires, she said, and local staff are dealing with that increase.

“Not only are our resources, but all of the social service organizations in the community are stretched right now because there are more people feeling the after effects and feeling anxious, or angry or depressed, so that’s a natural reaction to a trauma like the wildfires,” she said. “Increased levels of violence are part of that reaction, and part of it is when we are angry or stressed people often increase alcohol or drug consumption.”

Handbags for Hope is both an opportunity to help with that, and also an opportunity for people to take care of themselves, said Willsie.

“It’s an opportunity for people to support the need in the community that we are trying to address for victims, but one of the things we can do for ourselves if we are feeling stressed or depressed or anxious is spending time with friends or family and doing something that is fun and takes you away from the day to day stresses — it’s is a healthy thing to do.”

Willsie said the community has been amazing and supportive following the wildfires, as well as incredibly generous. She hopes many will head out to the Handbags for Hope event.

Tickets are $40, which includes the three course meal, but not alcohol (there will be a bar at the event), and are available at the Women’s Contact Society at 51A South Fourth Avenue.

“It’s just a great cause, its a fun way to support your community and that’s a good thing because we’re just starting to get a glimpse of spring and we are a little down because of the long winter and cloudy weather and it’s a good time to get out of the house and have a little fun.”

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