Plenty of purses

Published 9:47 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Members of the Suffolk Retired Teachers Association collected toiletry-filled purses for the Genieve Shelter at their Wednesday meeting. From left, members Iness Taylor, Costellar Ledbetter, Joyce Diggs, Joyce Ward, Priscilla Benn, Mary Hicks and Sue Nichols.

A purse is one of the most essential possessions of adult women, but many women are forced to go without.

However, clients of the Genieve Shelter now are stocked up on purses and toiletries, thanks to the Suffolk Retired Teachers Association.

Members of the group dug deep into their closets for little-used handbags and filled them up with soap, shampoo, lotion, deodorant, washcloths, tissues, toothbrushes and toothpaste, chewing gum, and other toiletries and small items. The group delivered about two dozen stuffed purses to the Genieve Shelter, an organization that provides temporary shelter and services to abused women.

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“Many times when women leave, they just have to go with what’s on their back,” said Costellar Ledbetter, who headed up the community service effort for the retired teachers’ association. “Nothing makes you feel better than having a nice warm shower or bath with deodorant and other personal things we need.”

Already, two clients of the Genieve Shelter have been able to benefit from the purses, said Val Livingston, executive director of the shelter.

“One lady came into our shelter with only what she was wearing,” Livingston said. “They were totally delighted to have a nice purse. It just elevated their spirits.”

Many women come into the shelter with nothing, having escaped an abusive relationship without time to pack any belongings. Having toiletries to use for the first few days is essential to getting back on their feet.

Livingston said the purses also will help women who are interviewing for jobs to move toward self-sufficiency.

“When they’re going to job interviews, they want to have something that looks nice,” Livingston said.

Ledbetter got the idea to do the service project when her sister, who lives out of town, did a similar project with her outreach ministry.

“I had not heard of anyone doing that in this area,” she said. “We are an organization that’s about giving back to the community.”

Livingston said the women who have already received their purses were grateful.

“It was just a big pick-me-up emotionally,” she said.

For more information on how to help the Genieve Shelter, call 925-4365.