Handbags of Hope is an organization that provides handbags and essential items to women in woman’s shelters in the province. Their goal is to uplift and encourage women of all ages who have had the courage to leave abusive and unhealthy relationships, as well as those in transition as a result of poverty and life challenges.

In March, a challenge went out to the Rotary clubs of District 5550, which extends from Sioux Lookout, Ontario in the east, to Flin Flon in the north, to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the east. The challenge was to collect handbags and essential items like socks, mitts/gloves, hats/toques, shampoo/conditioner/soap, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, brush/comb, Kleenex, granola bars, tea, soup packages, gum, or a piece of pre-loved jewelry. The collected items were to be brought to the district conference held from May 2-4 where they would be sorted and distributed to shelters.

The Rotary Club of Neepawa recognized the value of this program and reached out to the community to help meet this challenge. The club put up posters and promoted the idea on social media. The Banner helped get the word out by running an article promoting the cause. Handbags and items started trickling in, then as the word spread, started pouring in. The community collected over 150 handbags and enough supplies to fill a half ton truck.

Local organizer Ron Nordstrom says, “We were hoping to collect 30-50 handbags and a few boxes of supplies. We were proud of and overwhelmed by the generosity of the community for this worthy cause. The small town spirit of helping those in need is evident. Thank you for your support Neepawa!”

Mandy Kwasnica of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood organized this challenge for the district. She reports, “This flash project for Handbags of Hope was an overwhelming success. The generosity shown by Rotarians and their communities was incredible. Special thanks to the town of Neepawa who had the largest quantity of donations brought in. These handbags and the other donations received are going to have a major impact to those in need.”

The need for the items in the purses exists all year round and donations will be stored and distributed as needed.