Many hands make Handbags for Housing a success for volunteers, homeless families

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 18, 2014 

Lydia Place volunteer Audrey Gravely helps to sort and price dozens of handbags for the June 5, 2014, Handbags For Housing event at Depot Market Square, Bellingham.

SHULTZIE WILLOWS — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Last year, at the invitation of my daughter-in-law, I gathered a group of fun-loving women to participate in the first annual Handbags for Housing, a fashion- and fun-filled evening benefiting Lydia Place programs and services. We each got a ticket, brought a gently used bag from our closets, and prepared for a girls night out.

The room was packed with enthusiastic women who, like me, saw the possibility this financially accessible and unique fundraiser could create. From the minute we walked into the event we were delighted by the delicious appetizer and drink tastings, up-cycled handbag bazaar, new and used fashion show and live handbag auction. Oh, and not to mention, everyone came home with at least one new or gently used handbag for their collection! I had so much fun, and saw so muHch potential that I immediately volunteered to help plan and deliver an even better event for 2014.

Last year's Handbags For Housing sold out quickly, prompting a venue change for 2014 to the fabulous Depot Market Square in downtown Bellingham. Along with the venue change, additional event activities like a raffle, OH SNAP! photo booth, chocolate fountain, Evolve Truffle sampling, Cupcakes Like It Sweet cupcake stand and golden ticket drawing have been added to the mix. I hope women in our community will rally around this incredible cause and make this year's event bigger than ever!

I'm learning it takes a lot of preparation to deliver a successful event. When Hillary Clinton said "It takes a village..." she wasn't joking! As this event has evolved, I'm amazed at the outpouring of support from merchants and service providers throughout Whatcom County. Advertising, signage, food, drink, décor, music, lighting, hair and make-up and of course handbags have all been generously donated by caring professionals in our community.

When the goal is raising funds and awareness for a non-profit like Lydia Place, it requires creativity and sometimes a little arm-twisting in order to deliver a champagne experience on a shoe-string budget. We are thankful for fabulous sponsors who are opening their hearts and wallets to assure the event is all it can be. From presenting event sponsor Charter College, to fashion show sponsor Labels Women's Consignment, countless local businesses have pledged their support for this event because they recognize the importance and impact their collective contributions can make.

With an event of this size, there is plenty of room for every level of volunteer. It's really heart-warming to see the recent list of those who are stepping-up to ensure that each task from planning to clean-up is shared by many hands. Volunteering is the heart and soul of Lydia Place. Handbags For Housing, like all Lydia Place's events and programs, is run on volunteer power.

In just a year's time, Handbags For Housing has become an annual ritual for fashion lovers of all ages. For the Handbag Bazaar, volunteers sort through hundreds of donated purses to price and prep them for the event. I recently had an opportunity to sort through bins of handbags that have already been donated. Oh my gosh... there are hundreds of sizes, styles and colors to choose from including Coach, Dooney and Burke, Gucci and Prada. With prices starting at under $10 there truly is something for every budget.

Lydia Place provides emergency, transitional and permanent housing, services and programs that empower families to take back control of their lives and to envision a bright future for themselves and their children. Before I met the staff at Lydia Place, moms and kids weren't the first image that came to mind when I thought about the homeless. Now that I know this caring team of advocates, I can't find enough ways to help them!

Lydia Place needs and deserves our support. It takes a community working together to lift all our members up. Attending Handbags For Housing on June 5 is a fun and meaningful way to give back to those who need it most in our community and find an amazing accessory that will remind you every day that your support can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of local homeless families.

EVENT

Handbags For Housing, a fashion and fun benefit for Lydia Place is 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. Tickets are $25 or $40, plus a handbag from your closet. For tickets and information, email info@lydiaplace.org.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN

Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.shirley@bellinghamherald.com.

Audrey Gravley is regional vice president of Northwest Farm Credit Services and a Lydia Place volunteer and advocate.

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