Helping homeless, at-risk females: Auxiliary power fulfills MLK Day of Service promise!

27 purses work bee

Volunteers fill hundreds of purses and handbags during American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28’s Promise Purses project Jan. 18 on the MLK Day of Service.

MILLSBORO – Bingo is a Monday night fixture at Oak Orchard/Riverdale American Legion Post 28, where lucky winners claim prize purses of various sizes.

On Monday, Jan. 18, purses of a far different nature filled the bingo hall, carrying a promise and hope for homeless, at-risk women and those in crisis.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2016 brought upward of 60 volunteers to Post 28 for Promise Purses for Homeless Females – a community service project that far exceeded organizers expectations.

“We were totally overwhelmed,” said Tina Washington, Auxiliary Unit 28 president. “It was our first time doing it and we were just overwhelmed by the response that we got from the community. I never saw that many pocket books in one place in my whole life.”

27 Purses purse from post 28 FB

More than 700 purses and handbags were filled with daily essentials for females in American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28’s Promise Purses project, geared toward homeless women and those in crisis.

Over 700 Promise Purses were packed, each and every one filled with tissues, hand sanitizer, deodorant, female hygiene products, wet wipes, shampoo, soaps and other every day essentials.

Helping hands from Legion Auxiliary Unit 17 in Lewes, Unit 5 in Rehoboth, Unit 7 in Harrington and Sharptown, Md., People’s Place, Delaware 50+, Delaware State University’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and others who volunteered at the event.

Purses are destined for People’s Place, Home of the Brave II which houses female veterans in Milford, the Veterans Center in Georgetown and the Pathway to Success high school mentoring program.

“We’re giving them to domestic violence centers and crisis centers. We are going to reach out to the community and ask anyone that has needs to take some of the purses,” said Ms. Washington.

“And one of the things that we asked every person that volunteered to do was to take two or three purses and put them in the back of their car and as they travel, if they see someone one in need, they would give that purse to that person.”

27 PURSES junior skyler riley schmidt

Skyler and Riley Schmidt, junior members of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 28 , were among the volunteers in Unit 28’s Promise Purses project.

In addition, every Promise Purse contained a Joy Bag, packed by Junior Auxiliary members.

Joy Bag emergency kits include a:

  • marble for when are losing yours;
  • cotton ball to cushion the rough road ahead;
  • Tootsie Roll to help you roll with the punches;
  • Penny so you will never be penniless;
  • Hershey Kiss because we all need hugs and kisses;
  • Rubber band as a reminder to stay flexible;
  • Mint for all the things you “mint” to do;
  • Toothpick to help you pick out the good in others;
  • Paperclip to help you hold it all together.

Community donations supported the Promises Purses project, and there was a generous contribution.

“Roberta Bass, her brother and her family gave over $2,000 in cash so that we could purchase most of the stuff that we put in the purses,” said Ms. Washington.

MLK Day of Service is on Legion Auxiliary’s program agenda.

Unit 28 member Beth McGinn, in a Facebook posting, cited one of Dr. King’s quotes: “Anybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

“And that was so true today!” said Ms. McGinn. “Many great volunteers helped packed over 700 purses that will be distributed throughout Delaware to homeless and at-risk women.”

“We try to get our units to not take the day off, but day on, with something to serve and engage the whole community. It was kind of far-reaching. We were pleasantly surprised. I think everyone enjoyed it,” said Ms. Washington. “It was a wonderful day.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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