Fashion, fun and awareness helps improve lives



Heather Miller and Rachel Lancaster look at the purses at the Hope in a Handbag fundraiser, which raises money for Safer Futures, at Rockwell Hall on Oct. 13. Miller and Lancaster used to work with Safer Futures and came to support it. Photo by: Nancy Urchak

Amanda Crumm

Many phrases are associated with domestic violence: It could never happen to me. It must not be that bad or she would leave. He didn’t mean it. It’s my fault. I must have done something to upset him. I’m sorry. I love you, it’ll never happen again.

But many of these phrases are due to a lack of education about the topic.

“Domestic violence knows no color, gender, age or socioeconomic status,” said Shelley Marsh, director of Domestic Violence and Visitation Services at Safer Futures, a domestic violence shelter in Portage County. “Domestic violence happens in all kinds of families and relationships. Persons of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age and sex can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.”

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Safer Futures held its second annual “Hope in a Handbag” fundraiser Saturday at the Kent State Fashion Museum to raise awareness of domestic violence as the leading cause of injury to women.

More than 100 guests enjoyed an evening of hors d’oeuvres, wine and other beverages catered by Kent State Dining Services as they placed their bids on donated handbags in a silent auction.

“I think it’s one of the most creative ideas for a fundraiser,” said Amy Arnold, director of Senior Services and National Service Programs at Family and Community Services. “By doing something fun for ourselves, we’re also able to support other women, so I think it’s a really great blend of fun and need.”

Local businesses and community members donated approximately 400 new and slightly used handbags to raise money for domestic violence prevention. These included many designer bags such as Gucci, Prada and many Coach bags, as well as store brand bags.

Jessi Kulow Steiner, a crisis line employee at a domestic violence shelter in Bloomington, Ind., said she made a special trip from Indiana to attend this event.

“I love fashion, I love bags and I really love supporting a cause that helps promote awareness for domestic violence,” Steiner said. “Women are supposed to look out for each other, and that’s what we do with events like this.”

The bags ranged from formal to chic to casual use. But regardless of the make, they all drew much attention as guests staked out their spots, watching their favorite bags throughout the night to make sure they weren’t outbid. Many left the event carrying four to five bags each.

Marsh said they received so many bags that they only were able to auction off about 150 of the bags. The remainder of the bags will be given to past and present victims of domestic violence, Marsh said.

Proceeds will be used toward providing a safe and supportive environment for victims at Safer Futures. A final total of the proceeds was not available at press time.

“I really think that the services the shelter provides are vital for a lot of women and their children in this county,” Arnold said.

Marsh said she wants victims of domestic violence to know there are services that can help them and the event is meant to spread awareness.

“Tonight is about hope,” Marsh said. “Hope that if you or someone you know has been hurt by domestic violence there is help and that no one has to endure this alone. Hope that we are also raising awareness in an effort to eradicate domestic violence.”

Contact Amanda Crumm at [email protected].