June 6, 2010

Scene & Heard: Helping handbags

Funds raised at Purses with Purpose go to the Ronald McDonald House.

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Men decided to take a pass on the party, which was no doubt for the best.

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Karen Rawnsley of Cumberland, Robyn Rawnsley-Dutil of Cumberland, Heather DiSimone of North Yarmouth, who owns Beadin’ Path and donated jewelry, Jan Parker of North Yarmouth and Sarah Wallace of Yarmouth, who donated a Coach bag

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

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Kathrine Farris, Katherine Damon, Jody Hamilton, Renee Pottle and Sherry Norton, who are the Gorham Savings Divas

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

Additional Photos Below


IF YOU'RE LOOKING to party, network or support a good cause this week, check out:


MAINE SUCCESSFUL THINKERS, 5 to 7 p.m., Woodford's Club, Portland. Celebrate the networking group's first anniversary with jazz music, appetizers, cash bar and a magic show. Donations accepted. www.meetup.com/MaineSuccessfulThinkers


BUSINESS AFTER FIVE, 5 to 7 p.m., Casco Bay Eyecare, Falmouth. Join members of the Falmouth/Cumberland Chamber for the last networking event of the season with appetizers and a cash bar. Free members/$5 nonmembers. 772-2811.


MAINE WOMEN'S FUND LEADERSHIP LUNCHEON, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Holiday Inn by the Bay, Portland. Enjoy a networking reception, a lunch and an awards ceremony. $45 advance/$55 at door. 774-5513.

BUSINESS AFTER FIVE, 5 to 7 p.m., Scarborough Downs. Join members of the Scarborough Chamber for the last networking event of the season, vote on officers and enjoy appetizers, a cash bar and mock betting. Free members/$5 nonmembers. 772-2811.

LOCAL ART FOR ANIMALS, 5:30 to 9 p.m., Portland Co. Complex, Portland. Enjoy appetizers, desserts, a cash bar and bid on more than 250 pieces of art in a silent auction. $35 advance/$40 at door. www.therefugeme.org

E2TECH NETWORKING PARTY, 6 to 8 p.m., Maine Green Building Supply, Portland. Join other members of the environmental and energy sectors for light refreshments and a cash bar. $10. e2tech.org

MARGUERITE ROBICHAUX OPENING, 6 to 8:30 p.m., Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, Freeport. View Marguerite Robichaux's new work in the "From the Woods of Maine" show, meet the artist, enjoy refreshments and meet artist Sissy Buck. Free. (800) 708-9041.

Known as Purses with Purpose, the fifth annual fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House offered a brilliant excuse to ditch work and spend the afternoon bidding on handbags and scoping out fashion. Which explains why there were no guys among the more than 300 guests who filled the ballroom at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth on Thursday.

The party began with a round of competitive bidding in a silent auction featuring 260 lots of fabulous handbags, jewelry and accessories. Bags in the silent auction came in all shapes, sizes and colors, and included pieces from Coach, Cole Haan, Mary Frances, AU, Bass and Miche.

A seated luncheon with a live auction and a fashion show followed.

"I need another bag like I need a hole in the head," Christine Mullen of Freeport told me with a laugh. But that didn't stop her from bidding on an orange Cole Haan purse.

The reason she couldn't resist was explained succinctly by Paula Dalton-Gove when she said, "Today is about want, not need."

Dalton-Gove, who volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, came to the party with her friend Stacy Gile. I had the pleasure of sitting with both of them during lunch.

This inherent tension between want and need is what prompted a number of women to confide they were glad their husbands weren't there to see them sip wine and bid high on handbags. Because just as women don't understand why guys need a garage full of tools, it will remain forever a mystery to men as to why we ladies like to stock our closets with an abundance of handbags.

Pina Raia of Portland has attended the party all five years and has never gone home empty-handed. This year she brought along her granddaughter, Alexia Fornaro.

"It's a wonderful thing they're doing," Raia said. "It's a good cause."

As a result of the parties, she says she now has quite the "collection of bags."

Another Purses with Purpose regular is Denise Cole of Gorham.

She co-founded the popular D. Cole Jewelers in the Old Port with her husband, Dean Cole, but she wisely left him to tend to business while she and daughter Emily Cole shopped for pocketbooks.

"It's like our girls' day out," Denise Cole said. "Then we go back to work."

Another group skipping work for the party came from Gorham Savings Bank. Distinguished by their coordinated black suits and matching scarves of blue, green and red, these women told me they refer to themselves as the Gorham Savings Divas. They admitted there was no way a clique of self-styled divas could pass up an event like this.

"The license plate one is cracking me up," said Katherine Damon, one of the Gorham Savings Divas, in reference to an eye-catching bag crafted from Maine license plates. It was donated by Sen. Susan Collins.

When the handbag bidding ended, we all filed onto the tented porch for a light meal.

Maine's Funniest Mom Karen Morgan kept us all laughing through the lunch and the live auction with stories about naked 5Ks and moms who lie about the tooth fairy.

The fashion show gave us a glimpse of a number of gorgeous looks for spring and summer from Simply You, L.L. Bean's Signature line, Co-Op Freeport and RiceandBeansVintage.com. The models' accessories came courtesy of 3 femmes and their hair and makeup was done by Bei Capelli.

The Gucci bag donated by actress Kelly Preston was the purse that sold for the most money, fetching $600 when the hammer fell in the live auction.

In addition to Dalton-Gove and Giles, I had the honor of enjoying lunch with a number of lovely women. They included Meredith Strang Burgess, who is one of the founders of the organization, Jennifer Dimond, who recently joined the board, Mary Bertolet, who is the board president, Linda Gibbs, whose 85-year-old mother, Louise Currier, modeled in the fashion show, and Charlene Strang, who was the high bidder on a catered brunch by chef James Audiffred.

"I bought the same brunch two years ago," Strang said. "They did an excellent job."

Each round table was graced by a floral centerpiece adorned with white towels, which the second graders of Lunt School in Falmouth donated for use in the Ronald McDonald House. The Portland house provides a home-away-from-home for families with children in the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center. Their stays can stretch from a couple days to almost a year.

"We have over 300 volunteers who help us with the house," Bertolet said. "There are some houses in the country that have almost no volunteers."

And as the party that raised more than $40,000 proved, not only are local people generous with their time, they're generous with their wallets. Particularly when purses are involved. 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:



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Additional Photos

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Joan Moorehead of Paris, Jennifer O’Rourke of Sumner, Doreen Simmons of South Paris, Cathy Dow of Paris and Dawn Minigell of Norway

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

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Mori LeFevre of Cumberland, Lisa Chapman of Scarborough, Erin Whipple of Yarmouth and Christine Mullen of Freeport

Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer


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