Purse Palooza Aims To Provide Resources For Women Seeking Work

By Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Ind.

A light purse makes a heavy heart, according to an old proverb.

Purses are often lightest when their owners are not employed. And the lighter one's interviewing and networking skills are, the harder it is to land that job.

One thing one Cass County organization is nowhere near light on is purses, and it's planning to use them to ensure the same is true when it comes to resources for local women seeking employment.

About 700 new and gently used purses will be for sale at the Cass County Resource Network Employment Task Force's first Purse Palooza Saturday, Nov. 8. It's an event that aims to raise awareness and funds for what several leaders in the local business environment say is a lack of skills preventing women from getting the jobs they seek.

The task force works with area economic development offices, CEOs, human resource managers, workforce development agency WorkOne and local colleges to determine employment needs in Cass County.

Becky Anspach, who chairs the task force, said one thing these partners bring up often is a skills gap of both hard skills, like the kind learned academically; and soft skills, which include necessities like attendance and proper attire.

To raise awareness and funds for the latter, the task force organized the Purse Palooza event, led by a committee made up of Anspach, Erica Hopkins and Erica Beaman.

They started collecting new and gently used purses on the United Way of Cass County's Live United Day Sept. 19 and now have about 700 for women of all ages at prices from $1 to about $30. The collection includes brands like Coach, Vera Bradley, Thirty-One, Kate Spade and more. Inside each of them is an inspirational note to remind their new owners what the event is really about.

It's not just about the purses, Anspach said, but to "focus on building women up and preparing them for career success."

Funds raised at the event will go toward resources for these career preparations like hygiene kits and information on enhancing job interview skills.

Whatever doesn't sell will go to local services that provide professional attire for those in need at Emily's Closet Dress for Success Boutique and Ivy Tech Community College.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody in the community," Anspach said.

Purse Palooza will feature five masters of ceremony, door prizes, wine tastings, about 20 vendors and light refreshments. The task force will present Cass County resident Betsy Beatty the 2014 Empowering Women Award at 6 p.m.

"We wanted to nominate a lady in the community who has helped women advance their careers," Anspach said.

She added Beatty contributes toward this through her work as admissions counselor at Trine University in Logansport.

"She feels that education is the key to a lot of things in life," Anspach said.

Beatty said she was "absolutely floored" to learn she'd be winning the award.

"My job that I do every day -- I just do what I do because I love it," Beatty said. "I have an awesome opportunity working for Trine [University] and I do think that education is very important. Women need to be able to stand on their own two feet."

She added she often hears from students who feel like they can't keep up with their schoolwork and the rigors of every day life.

She relates to them through her own hurdles of being a single mom, full-time employee and full-time student with her psychology studies at Trine.

"I tell them 'I'm right there with you, let's do this together,'" she said. "...I've got my sleeves rolled up right there with them doing it."

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