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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Isabella Earp believes in the mantra, “If you look good, you feel good.” That’s why she’s working to help women in the Kansas City area get back on their feet one accessory at a time.

Earp is the founder of Purses to Persevere, a nonprofit providing women in shelters with purses filled with basic self-care items. 

“When I’m looking at women walking down the road and I see someone, for example, carrying a Target bag, I think maybe they’re not having the best time because maybe they don’t have the funds to afford a purse,” Earp said. 

Earp leads a team of volunteers from her school, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, to collect new and gently used purses, sanitize them and donate the bags to women in area shelters. Volunteers sanitize every bag and each one aside for at least two weeks before being sent to a shelter to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. 

“If there is any damage to the purses at all — rips, leftover lipstick on the inside of the purses — we donate it back to Goodwill because we want to have the best quality purses for our donations,” Earp said. “We sanitize them and try to wait two weeks so that the purses are completely clean before we donate them to a shelter.” 

Natasha Giddings received a purse from the program Wednesday night during an event at the City Union Mission

Giddings said she’s at a turning point in her life. She’s roughly half way through the New Life Program (NLP) at the Mission

“During this program, I’m in classes. We are in classes Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Working or having an income is not allowed, so it was nice to be able to shop for a purse,” Giddings said. 

*Photo courtesy of Purses to Persevere

Each bag is filled with hygiene products to help women look and feel their best as they transition to the next chapter of their lives. Earp said the bags are filled with things like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, chap stick, face wash and face coverings.

“What she’s doing is really important for women that are restoring themselves. There are things that are necessary going back out into the job force. A purse obviously is really important to a woman,” Giddings said. 

The nonprofit has given away more than 500 purses since last March. Earp said the program operates on donations. Anyone interested in making a donation to Purses to Persevere can contribute to their GoFundMe account, or contact Earp by email to coordinate a purse donation.