Laurie Parsons, executive director of Ishtar, is excited a new community fundraiser helps bring awareness and funding to school-based programs intended to educate kids about domestic and sexual violence.

Same name, new cause for Langley’s Power of the Purse event

Soroptimists resurrect a fundraiser aimed at helping kids learn about domestic and sexual abuse.

Power of the Purse has been resurrected in Langley, by a different group and for a different cause – but the fundraiser still aid women and children in this community.

This time Soroptimists International of the Langleys – the group that brought us Bras for a Cause – is presenting a new fundraising evening to benefit Ishtar Transition Housing Society.

Power of the Purse is a burger-and-beverage night at Newlands, where purses will be sold and auctioned off to help fund the school-focused Violence is Preventable (VIP) program. It’s aimed at helping children and youth who witness and live with domestic violence, said Soroptimist president Roseanne Ham.

“Soroptimist is a global organization of women helping women. This made the decision to support Ishtar with the proceeds from the upcoming Power of the Purse event an easy one,” Ham said.

Helping provide classroom-based presentations that can raise awareness about domestic and sexual abuse to literally hundreds in Langley each year is equally important for Laurie Parsons, Ishtar’s executive director.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the Soroptimists are fundraising for Ishtar’s school-based prevention education,” she said. “The Power of the Purse is a great concept. Better still is the power of a group of people committed to ending violence.”

This inaugural event is Thursday, April 12, starting at 6 p.m. and retired fire chief Jim McGregor is emceeing the festivities, explained organizer Caroline Parker.

“As always I expect him to be in fine form. When he emceed our Bras for a Cause event, the bra jokes were flying. I expect the same with the purses,” Parker said.

Purses of all sizes and descriptions will be for sale, as well as a collection of jewelry. Extra special purses will be sold off in a live auction throughout the evening.

“We have been wanting to do it for several years now,” said Parker. “We stole the idea [with permission] from our White Rock Club – who started it about seven or eight years ago.”

She also acknowledged an event by the same name was organized in Langley for several years, earlier in the decade. It started as a purse swap at a local co-op and grew into a large community-wide cancer fundraiser at Thunderbird. It was organized by cancer survivor Darla Bracklow, with assistance by Deb Froese and several other community volunteers.

“So we really have just recycled the idea – we can’t claim to have thought it up,” Parker said. “But, we hope we have perfected it… It is essentially a girls night out for a good cause.”

Parker anticipates the evening of fun should generate about $5,000 for the chosen charity.

“At Ishtar, we hope to prevent violence before it starts,” said Parsons, elaborating on the efforts that will be funded by this new initiative.

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Educating about abuse at the school level

VIP and [their] BELIEVE classroom-based presentations show “tremendous promise when it comes to prevention,” Parsons said.

“Yet, despite this promise, neither program is funded,” and she said any funds and awareness raised through projects like this in the community will go a long ways to building support.

This school year, Ishtar’s program staff provided the VIP presentation in 20 classrooms, to 611 children and youth and 30 teachers and learning assistants in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Two more schools will receive presentations with an anticipated 215 students prior to the end of this school year, she explained.

Another school-based program, still in the piloting phase this year, is the BELIEVE project, Parsons elaborated.

While VIP is focused around domestic violence, this new program provides children and youth with school-based support and education around issues of sexual violence including healthy relationships, consent, harassment, technology misuse and resources.

“The BELIEVE project educates not only children and youth, but also teachers and support staff about how to respond to sexual violence, and prevent it from happening in our B.C. communities,” Parsons said, noting that the Ishtar program staff provided the pilot presentations in six classrooms (a total of 108 students) in one elementary, one middle, and one high school in Langley.

“Each presentation is evaluated by students and staff and feedback has been very encouraging for both VIP and BELIEVE classroom presentations,” she noted, anxious to see the efforts continue and grow – in part thanks to fundraising efforts like Power of the Purse.

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Also on the agenda

The evening will also feature the presentation of the club’s Live Your Dream awards.

These cash awards are presented annually to women who are single head of household and are returning to school to better their lives and those of their children. There will be three recipients announced during next Thursday’s fundraiser.

“This is a signature project for Soroptimists,” Parker explained. “I am not certain how long we have been giving out the awards, but I have been a member of the club for 20 years and we have given them out every year I have been a member.”

Tickets are $30 and available online through Eventbrite or by calling Caroline Parker at 604-535-3820.

She noted that the event is being held upstairs at Newlands, and with no elevator will not be wheelchair accessible.

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