The 6th Annual “Big Pink Purse Luncheon”


“The Story of Two Purses”

This is a story about two purses, one that was lost, one that was found and the hope that will be passed on because of it.

The story begins a week before Christmas, 2011. Mark, my husband, had returned home from volunteering at the ABCCM dental clinic. When he walked in the door it was obvious he had a very long day, but there was something else. He told me of a patient he had treated that evening. He described her as very sweet & very grateful for his care. He told me about reviewing her post-op instructions. She took the piece of paper and slid it through the oval opening of a hospital style tissue box. One side had been crimped as a handle to function as a purse. It contained a tissue, a lip balm & a key. When he turned to her she said softly “I lost my purse this week”. At that moment he was deeply moved by the sadness in her eyes. He thought how most women have several purses for different outfits, but this woman had only one and it was gone. As I listened to her story, my eyes filled with tears & my heart ached, I felt desperate to find her & give her one of my purses that had been long forgotten in the back of my closet.

Several months later I was preparing to attend a meeting in Arizona. As I reviewed the agenda, I noticed they were asking each woman attending to bring a purse to be donated to a local charity. The purses were collected and redistributed to women in need.

Returning home, the idea of starting an outreach of this kind intrigued me, but I wondered if there was truly a need. I had no idea how women without a home lived or what their needs were. So, I met with Rev. Brian Combs of Haywood Street Congregation, which operates the Downtown Welcome Table now feeding approximately 400 people weekly, and was told absolutely there was a need. One very powerful point he made was that women on the street have very different needs from men. Unfortunately, they tend to get lumped together as simply “the homeless”.

I wasn’t sure where to start, but the idea was firmly planted in my mind (and my heart). Then, while sorting bags of clothes that had been given to me for the Clothing Closet at Haywood Street, I found THE purse. Imagine sorting, “summer, winter, summer, etc.” and there was one BIG HOT PINK PURSE ….. I couldn’t miss it! That was my third and final nudge! I quickly went to talk to others at Haywood Street and ask one last time – Is there a need? With this teary-eyed response from staff: “Lisa, anything better than a grocery bag is a treasure”, “The Big Pink Purse” was born.

The mission is simply to collect gently used purses & backpacks and basic personal care items and to give a woman in need the chance to choose a bag that makes her smile and receive a gift of personal care items that most of us take for granted.

— Lisa Knollman

On Friday, May 12th,  from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, the “Big Pink Purse” luncheon will take place at the Downtown Welcome Table at the Haywood Street Congregation. All who self-identify as needing a little pampering and a new purse are invited and welcome to attend.

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