We’ve all seen those McDonald’s signs about the billions served. It’s a smaller number for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine, but it has a heart-warming impact.

Last year, 594 families stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Portland or Bangor to be close to children’s medical facilities.

“Today, we’re raising funds to keep families close to children while they are receiving medical treatment,” said development director Alicia Milne at the nonprofit’s annual Purses with Purpose fundraiser June 2 at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth.

One of the 240 women at the lunch event was Lisa Klessens, who stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland for six weeks last summer and now volunteers there every Thursday. The Klessens family traveled from Alaska last June so that son Chandler could receive services at Spring Harbor Hospital’s autism unit. They’ve since found a home in Scarborough.

“The biggest gift my husband and I could have asked for was a safe, secure and supportive place to stay as we ventured into this new chapter in our lives,” Klessens said. “Staying at the Ronald McDonald House allowed me one less thing to worry about.”

She talked about the bond between the mothers at the house, regardless of the age of their children or their medical issues. Most of the women were there without their husbands, who had to go back to work. That bond between women is at the core of the Purses with Purpose luncheon, a popular event for the past 12 years.

“It’s about encouraging one another as women,” said guest speaker Erin Ovalle, co-host of the “MaineLife” television show.

Getting hundreds of women together in the middle of a weekday – even if it’s for an auction, lunch with friends and a glass of wine – doesn’t happen easily. And that’s why Robin Chibroski, executive director of the nonprofit, is especially grateful.

“We have lots of choices,” she said, “and I am humbled and grateful that these women chose to come out and support us. It’s so amazing to me that Purses can raise nearly $55,000.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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