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How handbags and cocktails help solve the homeless problem

Watch highlights of the fashion show at Handbags for Housing fundraiser in Bellingham

Highlights from Handbags for Housing on Thursday, June 2, at Depot Market Square in Bellingham, Wash. Handbags for Housing is a fundraiser put on by Lydia Place to benefit homeless families in Whatcom County. The fourth annual event featured a han
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Highlights from Handbags for Housing on Thursday, June 2, at Depot Market Square in Bellingham, Wash. Handbags for Housing is a fundraiser put on by Lydia Place to benefit homeless families in Whatcom County. The fourth annual event featured a han

Cocktails, handbags and fashion usually aren’t part of the conversation concerning homelessness.

That’s exactly why Lydia Place uses them as a fundraiser.

On Thursday evening, June 2, a giant white tent transformed Depot Market Square’s parking lot into part party and part fundraiser. People — mostly women — dressed up for the event, which included cocktails, a handbag exchange, silent auction and a runway fashion show featuring new and consignment items from local stores.

“All the things that happened inside that tent were pretty magical,” said Shultzie Willows, development and outreach director of Lydia Place.

Friendly bidding wars broke out amid the laughter, with items up for grabs including a Marc Jacobs bag with certificate inside for a trip to Mexico. Gold spray-painted Barbie dolls served as the fashion show awards.

Before it was over, the estimated 450 people in attendance raised more than $50,000. While it was fun, they also understood it was for a cause — helping people get out of homelessness.

“It was so incredible to see the support in the room, to see people so connected to the mission of Lydia Place,” Willows said.

Solving the homeless problem, which is only growing in Bellingham, will take the whole community, said Emily O’Connor, executive director of Lydia Place.

That’s why the nonprofit started the Handbags for Housing event four years ago.

“We want this to be an accessible place for people to start helping,” Willows said.

Debbie Townsend: 360-715-2280, @HeraldDT

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