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One Small Thing. One Small Purse.

There's a church in my neighborhood that I pass nearly every day when I walk my dog. It's a pretty church with long, thick white columns. The congregants seem nice enough, too, as they don't speed out of the parking lot in my quiet neighborhood on Sundays or when the Boy Scouts are having their meetings. All in all, I like this church. This building. There is a sign out front that poses a question to all passersby:



This sign has bothered me ever since I've read it. But this isn't a post about the passive-aggressive message contained within. In fact, I could very well answer the question with the fact that I've used my powers for good once before and was overwhelmed with the compassion of friends and regular readers of this blog. (For those who don't know the story, I offered to donate a dollar for each comment I got on a post about three students who wouldn't have had a Christmas and readers responded with generous hearts and selfless motives until we reached over $1,000 for which to buy gifts for them. The story still chokes me up when I think about it and it's all I can do not to blame it on hormones.)

Are you ready for a strange segue? Here goes...

SO! My school has been in the news a lot lately and it's nothing short of fifty shades of SUCK. It's no secret that the media beat us up and I already work at the district step-child high school. It's also no secret (to readers of Mocha Momma) that I adore my co-workers and students and go into work every day to the hardest, most unappreciated job in the world. Some days call for me to take the hit that I don't deserve. Other days I am challenged by those I work with one second only to be in a position to defend them passionately in the next. Right now I refuse to even link to those stories and I never read the online comments to newspaper stories because then I feel the need to apologize on behalf of all educators who have left those people behind. WE'RE SORRY YOU DON'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "YOUR" AND "YOU'RE" OR "PRINCIPAL" AND "PRINCIPLE."

That's about as much as I can say about work-related stuff without getting into trouble. I have a deficiency in the area of shutting-the-heck-up-when-I-should. There's not a pill or anything that works to make that better. 

As I walk into work each day the poverty of my schools' students is never lost on me. Yet, I watch some of these students who come from more than difficult home lives continually come to school where they want to learn. Even more impressive is that they come to school and help with blood drives, canned food collections, and other community service events even when they themselves are in need. It is not lost on me that they are themselves inspiring to the adults who gladly work with them. In a million years I didn't expect to have a career that I loved this much. The things I get to witness and the growing I get to watch astounds me.

Recently, because of a response to the media trashing us, we are hitting hard on some things in our school. Students have never been allowed to carry backpacks, but the issue that keeps coming up are the girls' purses. Hey, I'm as fashion forward as the next gal so I know that big purses are here to stay. When my male students complain that girls get to even carry purses I remind them, gently, that as soon as they have to carry around tampons and Midol this won't be an issue. 

Some of the biggest complainers have come to see me in my office or caught me in the hallway or a classroom:

Why can't we carry big purses? I saved up $50 to buy this and it's the only one I have! I can't buy another one.

This is stupid! I'm a good girl. Why are we always getting punished?

Who even SELLS small purses? Everything in the stores is big. 

These girls are right. They're also pretty whiny when they come talk to me so I decided to take something ugly and turn it in to something pretty. I asked seven girls to help me coordinate a Purse Drive for school and I'm using my blog to spread the word. 

Do you have an old, small purse you'd be willing to donate?

Can you purchase a small purse that we can use for our Purse Drive?

My intention is to take all donations and sell them for the set price of $5 for any girl who wants to come to the Purse Shop I'm setting up in school and then give the money to the school. My seven girls will help me set it up, arrange the purses for display, collect the money, and do a really good thing. A small thing, but a good thing nonetheless.

Here's what I was wondering: can you help? More details on where to send purses coming soon. Maybe a widget! A button for your blog! But most importantly, you get that really good feeling of doing some good in the world and showing compassion to a bunch of teenage girls you don't even know.

UPDATE on November 8, 2009: Yes, the purse drive is still going strong. Perhaps I should have mentioned that there are nearly 700 girls in my school and we'd love to see this as a sustainable project. So, if you've been meaning to send purses and haven't done it yet, please consider doing so. We are grateful for any and all donations.
« Tiny Purses, Big Hearts | Main | Your Chance To Be Ann Landers »

Reader Comments (100)

Hi, I have a couple little ones I do not need any longer, one is brand new! Let me know how to get them to you, and I will do it!!!!! Darla

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarla sez

Given that I'm sure I'm not the only non-US resident reading this... and given that my choice in purses might not be to the taste of the intended recipients... how best to help? Send money to a Paypal account so some could be bought? Buy from an online store and have it shipped to a suitable address? Something else?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine


I don't have any small purses on hand but I would be happy to purchase a few and send them to you (I have an online store so I can purchase a few styles wholesale). What a great idea!


October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

I am a lurker who reads yoru blog often and this purse drive is such a great idea. I was in my closet last night and I have tons of purses that I have been wanting to get rid of. So I look forward to the guidelines and I will be sure to send in what fits the criteria.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Count me in. I will see what I can drag up out of the basement (I had a problem once, called small pursitis) and I may even be able to make something fun, with skulls or something hardcore on it. ;)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia Sprout

I think this is a really cool idea. Great way to help girls and raise money for the school at the same time. But.

What about the girls who don't even have $5?

I ask because at times during my school career, I would have been one of those. There were times when my family could not even afford to buy me paper. I would run out of paper and not be able to get more for a couple of weeks or a whole month. So I could not take notes, and if there was a pop quiz in class, I would frantically erase some old homework or something so that I would have something to write on.

(This did teach me to hold questions in my head long after they were asked, and to do my work twice as fast as the kids who could always afford paper.)

So, I guess I'm saying: if you know a girl at that school who doesn't even have five dollars, let me know and I will send you a purse to give especially to her, on the sly.

(And I'll throw in some paper.)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaelithe "small" is "small?" I think I have a few that would fit the bill, but I need specifics, ma'am. :-)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCaffeinated Librarian

I have a giant box somewhere in a closet of purses that I haven't used in a while! Seeing as some of them are really old and made before BIG purses were so in style, I'm betting I have at least a couple that will suffice. I'd love to help.
I'm not technologically-savvy enough to make a button or anything for my blog, but would LOVE to put one up if one is made... so let me know. Looking forward to details on where to send them! Oh, and exactly what counts as small?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBelle

What a fantastic idea! What dimensions are we talking? I'm sure I have some small-ish purses in my closet (I've learned that I carry more crap when the purse is bigger, so I try to keep them on the small side). I'll spread the word!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Evans

i'd definitely help. like everyone else, i have a box of mostly new purses i'll never use again.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershe

YES!! I have some purses at home and so does my daughter. We would be glad to help donate.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLu

Let's do this. I don't have purses, but I know lots of people who have too many. And both sides of my family (all 200+ relatives) are from Chicago and most were/are the impoverished, struggling, problem-filled students you work with every day. How could I *not* want to help?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterYolanda

I am the epitome of fashion and purses - NOT! Seriously, for one thing I call them handbags; for another, the only semi-fashionable/decent one I ever had was" rel="nofollow">a leather backpack styled thing which broke, is now fixed but waiting for me in Switzerland! I've been making do with a 13-year old fanny pack... yes you read that right. Oh yeah. That's me! :D :D So, umm, this is the long way of saying I don't have any physical purses to donate, but I'd be happy to throw a note or two your way to help out your girls. Looking forward to details, either here or 'live' over Bloody Marys *grin!*

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter*lynne*

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Troehler and JSpaghetti, lynne naranek. lynne naranek said: Do you have unused small purses? How about donating them to @mochamomma's cause? [LOVE the tinyurl!] #fb [...]

I graduated from your school a few years ago (ok more than a few... but I'm allowed to be in denial about my age...). It was around Columbine and metal detectors and no backpacks became the rule. I always thought it was odd that girls were allowed to carry huge purses... The point I'm trying to make is that as a proud alumni I would LOVE to help with this! I have a few smaller purses that I've barely if ever used that I could part with :)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTara SG

Also wondering how small is small. I'm sure I can dig up a couple in my stash. :)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKara

I'm going to go home & take a look. I'll betcha that I've got at least ONE cute little purse. :)

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynette

I think I have one or two that fit the bill, what's the size requirement/restriction?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

I'm in. Just say the word, approximate dimensions and where to send!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBusy Mom

You figure out the deets (where to send them, etc.) and I will pimp it any way I can. I also have some purses to send your way.

You have a heart that's even bigger than your smile, Kelly. I love you for it.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngella

Just a few answers to some questions:

Catherine's idea of a PayPal is awesome and I'll set it up for foreign-currency as well. MANY thanks for that suggestion!

Jaelithe's suggestion is amazing as well and I will see to it that the needier girls get something. I already have a few in mind who could really use the help so fear not! She will love whatever paper you can also provide.

Size requirements: our rule is no bigger than a piece of paper. So 8.5 x 11 is the thing to match. It's a super easy way for everyone to measure against as well.

Already the response is overwhelming. I can't wait to see what WE CAN DO!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

This is so great. Will look through my stash that needs to be cleared out for sure.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotherhood Uncensored

L-O-V-E it! Count me in. Just let us know what defines "small purse" these days, 'k?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMommela

I wanna help! I have a few little purses, they may be a little bigger than a sheet of paper if you include the handles. Is that okay?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

Have you seen these?

Would that be acceptable? Because I could make a couple of those for your girls. The young'uns on Craftster seem to think they're cool. (Sorry, I'm VERY out of touch, both with teens AND with the 'less fortunate'.)

How about we all add some inspiring girl-power message in our "donations"? My favourite right now is "Impossible is NOTHING".

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersheri bheri

Let me know where to send the purses. I am sure I have a couple small ones in the closet that I no longer carry. I would love to help.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Saw your link that someone RT on Twitter. I know I have at least one small purse that I'd be happy to donate, and I bet once you have guidelines in place I can get some of my friends to donate as well. Please let us know when and where to send.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Excited to take part in this venture!!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Um, sheri?

You know that part in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! when his heart grew "three sizes larger"? That just happened to me.

Adding those inspiring quotes inside the purses are just about making my heart grow yet another size.

I think the Japanese knot bags are incredible! They'd love them! I just know it.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Yes! I have purses that will be happy to find a new owner! Where do I send them?

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFlorencia

Count me in! Could we give gift certificates to That way, maybe they could pick/choose their own purse? Or you could order a few? Or would you just prefer PayPal?

My kids go to an elementary school with similar demographics to your school (or so it seems...) Most of our neighbors go to private schools rather than go to school with "those kids."

But I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our school. The teachers and the principal are simply amazing. life-changingly amazing. And I've fallen madly in love with so many of the kids. I couldn't leave our school if you paid me. I've seen more heart-felt generosity from some of the so-called "poor" families than from anyone else I know.

So count me in.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterK

Florencia (and all)...

I'll be updating with another post soon about the details. I just need to get a few things together first. Thanks so much for your interest! More to come!

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Oh! K! You jumped in there before I could respond the last time.

I love that idea. I really do. I'm going to go look at that site and then I could offer those as well as the others. Every little bit helps.

You are my favorite kind of parent, K. The ones who are loyal and want the best for ALL kids, no matter what the background. You, and parents like you, make my job really wonderful. We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE you, too.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

I have posted this idea to my own blog with a link. I've also posted on facebook. And by the end of the weekend I will have cleared my own stash and started a pile to be sent your way.

Here we go!!!

Oh, and i'm about to add it to my twitter as well. =D

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaughingMouse

This is a fantastic idea! Count me in!
I have a few purses I can part with, right now.
I'll check back for the details.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermartha-california

This is such a wonderful idea. I have a container full of purses that I would love to get rid of in a constructive way. I just hope that the girls would actually like them. Some of them, I actually carried when I was in high school (10+ years ago). One question: what constitutes a "small" purse. Does your school have set dimensions to go by?

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeanery

Count me in too! I have a purse & shoe thing. I have some purses that are brand new that are the right size.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

How small is small? I have a few purses that I wouldn't mind parting with.


October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey

Great idea!

I have about 49 purses of that nature. Let us know where to send!

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNel

I hesitated to comment on this post since I have no idea how important a purse is to a young girl... and thankful for that...

But the spirit of all these comments brought tear to my eyes... people so willing to help...It made me feel like there is still hope for us all... People helping people in need... Amazing...

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMisterNoodle

Brilliant idea. I am picturing two or three right off the top of my head that I can send your way.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBinkytowne

I've been using a carry bag for a nintendo DS as a purse for a year or so now. I've got this style

They're a little more than the $5 price point that you're looking for, but it's at least a direction you can point the girls when they whine about nobody selling small purses.

Good luck with your drive!

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterV's Herbie

Your school is so lucky to have you. This rocks. Will dig up something purdy.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMom101

I went to Target at lunch. Saw lots of cute purses (under $20) and some cute stuff for me too!

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Score! On top of my own stash, I wandered into a Coach outlet today and they were having a 75% off sale! Some girl will get a brand new Coach small purse. Awaiting details on where to send them...

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMommela

Una idea muy excelente.

I am sure I could scrounge up some purses, post a widget, the whole 9. That stinks that the babies can't find a small bag and it's such an issue.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterangie

I'd love to help out...tell us more. :D

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I'm totally in. Just came back from St. Vinnie's and found two cute ones! So remind people - if you're @ a thrift store for Halloween costume shopping, swing by the purse table while you're at it.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermayberry

So my idea of small may not be the same for someone my question is are there specific measurements the purses may not be over like some rule that the school has.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

[...] friend Kelly works at a high school which is under fire. She wants to lift up the teenage girls by collecting small purses on their behalf.  If you want to send a small purse and cheer up a girk in need, Kelly’s posted details of [...]

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