Pop open a Soroptimist purse full of prizes and help a girl

Event co-chairwoman Lisa Grosso and Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island president Sheila White hold up a small sample of the purses to be filled with goodies at the Purses with a Purpose fundraiser. - Photo courtesy of Marian Myszkowski
Event co-chairwoman Lisa Grosso and Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island president Sheila White hold up a small sample of the purses to be filled with goodies at the Purses with a Purpose fundraiser.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Marian Myszkowski

Kathy Habel says she can’t walk through the food store anymore without getting a hug from a girl.

Habel has been a member of the Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island for 15 years. The girls who wrap their arms around her, she said, are grateful beneficiaries of the Island Girls Live Their Dreams Day Camp that was begun by the Soroptimists in 2006, and is now its own nonprofit entity.

The day camp is an example, Habel said, of one of the many ways in which the Soroptimists strive to make the lives of women and girls better.

“We look for needs in the community, design programs and launch them,” she said.

In order to do that successfully, the Soroptimists look to the community for help.

SISWI hold its third annual Purses with a Purpose Fundraiser at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 at Greenbank Farm.

Everyone is welcome to join Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island for this creative and entertaining fundraiser to support their awards and grants programs.

The live and silent auctions feature more than 50 purses in a variety of styles, colors and sizes and filled with a selection of specialty items, gift certificates, and some surprises.

New this year are “celebrity purses” featuring designs by international designers Graham Kerr, Steve Madden and others. The evening will feature a selection of casual, formal and seasonal purses, teen bags, bags for men, cooking bags and book bags.  There are opportunities for everyone to bid and win, with minimum bids as low as $10.

Habel said the purse fundraiser is a good way to offer both an evening of fun and prizes for one’s neighbors, while raising money for programs that give back to the women and girls in the community.

“One beneficiary of our scholarships went to divinity school and is now a minister on the Kitsap Peninsula,” Habel said.

“Another young girl received the Richardson Award, went to college and now is a happily teaching in special education. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’m making life better for women and girls and that keeps me bubbling along,” she said.

Soroptimist International is an organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world.  Almost 95,000 Soroptimists in 120 countries contribute their time and financial support to community–based projects that benefit women and girls.

The local chapter on South Whidbey is in its 27th year and has played an important part in a large number of projects. Beneficiaries in 2011 alone include Heart of a Woman, Helping Hand of South Whidbey, Whidbey Island Share A Home, Good Cheer Food Bank, Readiness to Learn’s Back to School Project, and the South Whidbey School Discretionary Fund.

Six scholarships and awards are given annually to local teen girls and women who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism and community service.

“The good work can happen in all kinds of ways,” Habel said.

“The girls day camp, for instance, came out of one woman’s mind that seemed like a good idea to the rest of the group.”

The camp was up and running in six weeks time and is now running on its own each summer creating a fun and active learning experience for island girls ages 11-14.

But just because the Soroptimists are women helping women, that doesn’t mean guys can’t join in the fun at the Purses with a Purpose event.

“There’ll be plenty of things to win for men and women,” Habel said. “We have sailing instruction, club memberships and local vintners will be there serving wines,” she said.

Local winemakers pouring at the party will be Blooms Winery, Comforts of Whidbey and Holmes Harbor Cellars all offering tastes of their finest blends. Wine will also be available for purchase by the glass.

Additionally, a delicious variety of hearty appetizers will be served, including mini crab cakes with creamy chili sauce, pecan stuffed mushrooms, olive cheese puffs, sliced roast beef with rosemary mayonnaise and rye bread, bourbon glazed chicken wings with blue cheese dipping sauce, and cold poached shrimp with seafood sauce.

Purses with a Purpose will be held in Barn A at Greenbank Farm. Tickets are $25 and include the wine tasting and plenty of hors d’oeuvres.

To buy a ticket, visit the website at, call 331-4127 or email

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