Hope in a Handbag: Event raises funds, awareness for victims of domestic violence

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Safer Futures, a program of Family & Community Services, held its second annual "Hope in a Handbag" recently. This festive fundraiser has become an annual signature event for the county's only domestic violence shelter.

The festivities began with more than 125 women enjoying hors d'oeuvres, conversation and specialty beverages at the Kent State University Fashion Museum atrium.

The highlight of the evening featured more than 150 new and gently used designer and high fashion handbags, all of which were donated by the community for the silent auction.

"Since our article appeared in the Record-Courier, I fielded dozens of phone calls and emails from women all over the community wanting to support the event," said Bonnie Wilson, director of Business and Community Relationships. "One woman shared her story of triumph over an abuser a number of years ago. She wanted to empower another woman to survive an abuser by donating a purse to the fundraiser."

This year's event was sponsored by The Middlefield Banking Company, Joan Burbick, Joann Vance, Gay Lindsay, Northeast Ohio Oilfield Service, Hometown Bank, Robinson Memorial Hospital, Portage Community Bank and Seven Seventeen Credit Union.

A new feature this year was the "Purse-O-Nality." These specialty bags were donated by local merchants including Style Mutt, the Peanut Shoppe, Banyan Tree, Storehouse Tea, Kay Dasher and Starbucks.

According to Shelley Marsh, director of Domestic Violence and Visitation Services, "Domestic violence continues to be one of the most common calls received by the Portage County Sheriff's Office. It's the leading cause of injury to women in the United States, out-ranking auto accidents, rape, and muggings combined."

Marsh added, "Domestic violence knows no color, gender, age or socioeconomic status. The abuse can be physical, mental, sexual or emotional. Victims of domestic violence may feel like there's nowhere to turn but we're here to let women know that they're not alone. There is hope."

Proceeds from this event will be used to continue Safer Futures' mission of providing a safe, supportive, confidential location for victims and their children fleeing domestic violence. Safer Futures services have grown to include support groups, transitional housing and outreach advocacy.

Last year, 69 women and children sought refuge and received support services through Safer Futures. More than 860 survivors received outreach and other program services provided by Safer Futures.

For more information about Safer Futures contact Shelley Marsh at smarsh@fcsohio.org or call 330-298-9107.

Timothy Sainte-Hilaire/Record-Courier photos

RChope101312_ts01: Dena Lee performs at second annual "Hope in a Handbag" fundraiser.

RChope101312_ts02: Tina and Tinisee Kandakai peruse the handbag tables.

RChope101312_ts03: Polly Germer signs her name for one of the silent auction items.

RChope101312_ts04: Diane Lassan and Annette Balis check out some of the unique handbags donated for the event.

Timothy Sainte-Hilaire-Record-Courier

RChope101312_ts05: Anne Face, Amy Michael, Traci Crooks and Laura Smiley.

RChope101312_ts06: More than 125 women enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, conversation and specialty beverages at the Kent State University Fashion Museum atrium.

RChope101312_ts07: Maurice Drake and Carol Shoop chat during the event that benefits Safer Futures.

RChope101312_ts08: Shelley Marsh, director of Domestic Violence and Visitation Services, addresses the crowd.

RChope101312_ts09: Judge Barbara Oswick chats with Bonnie Wilson, director of Business and Community Relationships.

RChope101312_ts10: The highlight of the evening featured more than 150 new and gently used designer and high fashion handbags, all of which were donated by the community for the silent auction.

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