Launee Wolverton doesn’t carry a purse. So, it’s ironic that her mission is to provide purses to homeless and underprivileged women. But they aren’t just for vanity; the purses are filled with hygiene products, socks and other essentials. “I literally just woke up one day with the idea,” says Wolverton, C2EX, a real estate agent with Silvercreek Realty Group in Meridian, Idaho. “I thought, ‘How random—but OK, let’s see where this goes.’”
Initially, five years ago, she called for donated purses from her sphere on Facebook and planned to fill them and hand them out to homeless women in the Boise Valley area. Wolverton’s post garnered a much larger response than she expected, and her contacts started connecting her with women’s shelters and other groups that could benefit from her efforts. In a short time, Wolverton’s idea grew into an organization called Purses with a Purpose.
“We work with groups and organizations that help women who are getting out of prison, being rescued from sex trafficking, leaving domestic abuse situations and young girls who are homeless but still in school. So, we donate bags to five high schools in the area as well,” Wolverton says.
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Each month, the volunteer-run organization stuffs over 400 purses and backpacks with toothbrushes, deodorant, socks, soap and feminine hygiene products. Wolverton also includes a card with the Purses with a Purpose logo and a note that reads, “This purse has been filled with love by a group of people who believe in you. You are not alone.”
Wolverton also includes a notecard with the words “what this purse means to me” written across the top. The women who receive the purses can choose to write a note and return it to the organization. “One woman who was getting out of prison filled out the card, and I’ll never forget what it said,” Wolverton recalls. “She wrote, ‘Thank you so much for this beautiful purse that I can wear on the outside while I’m picking up the pieces on the inside.’”
Some people question Wolverton’s efforts on the surface, she says. She remembers a man she was in conversation with who asked, “Why purses? Is it really making a difference?” It’s a question she’d asked herself at first. But the stories of women she’s helped provide the answer.
On one occasion, while Wolverton was promoting Purses with a Purpose at a farmer’s market, a woman walked right up to her booth. At first, Wolverton was hopeful the woman would want to donate to the organization. But instead, she thanked Wolverton because she’d received a purse from the organization after she was released from jail. She had struggled with addiction but found recovery.
“Now she is living comfortably with her husband and her kids, but she told me she keeps that card with her at all times,” Wolverton says. “She puts it in whatever purse she’s carrying. She said it gave her hope and strength.”