Gently used purses wait to be filled in Sue Momphers Purses with Purpose room. The Findlay woman launched the project about a year ago, collecting handbags and filling them with personal care items for women utilizing various charities in the city. (Photo by Brenna Griteman)



A Findlay woman has launched a thoughtful service project directly benefiting some of the area’s most vulnerable ladies.

And the fact that she’ll most likely never meet any of the recipients has no bearing on Sue Mompher, who says she simply set out to help “Ladies. Any ladies.”

Mompher’s Purses with Purpose project provides nearly new handbags full of essential personal care items for women being served by Open Arms, Hope House, City Mission, Chopin Hall and Christian Clearing House. It’s a relatively small gesture that can bring a huge dose of hope and self-confidence to someone who’s newly homeless or who has fled an abusive situation.

“They leave home and they might just need something to tide them over for a week. This can give them a boost,” Mompher says.

The 78-year-old launched the project about a year ago and has transformed an entire room in her house into a storage space for neatly stacked tubs of shampoo and conditioner, razors, tissues and pads. She’s amassed a group of about a dozen women who stuff purses when they have the time and, when her supplies run low, put out a call for donations of purses and personal care items on Facebook.

As the project got off the ground, friends from Stonebridge Church were instrumental in donating purses plucked straight from their closets or gathered from garage sales and thrift stores. Mompher currently has a collection of about 35 donated purses on standby, in a range of colors, shapes and sizes. Any purse will do, so long as it looks like new.

“These are just good looking purses. I want them to be nice,” Mompher says. “If it looks worn to me, I wouldn’t want anybody else carrying it.”

It is, in fact, what helps set her mission apart. Mompher says charities like City Mission and Open Arms have care items available for their clients, “but they don’t have the pretty little bags that we put them in.”

Each handbag is lovingly filled with a notepad and pen, Q-tips, cotton balls and emery board, a razor, a travel-size shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, a comb or brush, lotion, tissues, deodorant, pads, hand towel and washcloth and mints. Full-size items are split into travel-size bottles to help them stretch further, and donations are sometimes received from hotels in the area. Mompher keeps her eyes peeled for sales to keep her supply well-stocked.

“Any of this can be picked up for a couple dollars,” she says. “I can go out and pick up a cup of coffee … and it’s gone. But this lasts.”

Ashley Ritz, executive director of Open Arms Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services, says the purses are highly treasured by their recipients even after the care items have been used. She noted many clients utilizing the emergency shelter arrive with just the clothes on their backs, so the purses provide a very practical function. And, they offer a tangible reminder that someone is on their side.

“Healing from the trauma of domestic violence is a long process, but with even the smallest supports and kind gestures, victims know that they are not alone and there are people in our community that care,” Ritz says.

Mompher donates six to 12 purses to each charity every couple of months, always calling first to make sure the need is there.

“And we really load them up at Christmastime,” she says, explaining each charity receives a special delivery of purses in December, complete with a pocket calendar and a card — “just a little note.”

Anyone who wants to get involved with Purses with Purpose, either through stuffing purses or donating items, may contact Mompher at 419-422-4500. She notes it’s an easy project to pick up when you have free time, then come back to later if you get busy.

“It doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it is for these ladies,” she says.

Griteman: 419-427-8477
Send an E-mail to Brenna Griteman