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Discovery teacher founds Purses for Change

Purses for Change hosted "Cupcakes, Conversation, and Community" in January with help from Delaney Meyer, Kaitlyn Esteppe and Crystal Hoskins.

Dealing with difficult changes in her own life inspired Sherri Shamwell to found Purses for Change, a non-profit organization that encourages girls and women.

“As I worked through (my changes), a desire to help others began to grow,” Shamwell said. “The focus became helping girls and women navigate change.” She teaches language arts at Discovery Middle School.

At first, she wanted to focus only on issues familiar to her. “As the idea for a non-profit evolved, the focus became change itself,” Shamwell said. “Everyone deals with change. Some changes we have to endure are more difficult than others.”

“Many of us are blessed with the resources (financially, emotionally, and spiritually) to navigate changes in our lives, but many others do not,” Shamwell said.

These changes may be a move from another country or state, family dynamics and physical transformations. The situation may require more education or awareness, additional resources or encouragement and accountability.

Purses for Change stresses three themes in its outreach: empower, educate and encourage. In a symbolic yet practical gesture, Shamwell gives purses or tote bags to the women as a personal touch. “We don’t sell them. We give them away,” she said.

Depending on the recipient, contents of the purse vary. Most purses contain educational material that fits the individual’s needs.

In the past year, Purses for Change has donated “911 Tote Bags” to children affected by domestic violence, “Change Purses” to women at Hope Place and “Hope Totes” to homeless teens.

“Later in the year, we’ll be providing Change Purses to women enrolled in the Christian Women’s Job Corps,” Shamwell said.

“We also need volunteers occasionally to make or package our purses and totes,” she said. Shamwell continues to recruit committed board members and volunteers who have experienced difficult changes.

After relying solely on donations and grants, Purses for Change participated in Alabama Gives Day on Feb. 2. Individuals can donate at any time.

Purses for Change received its 501(c)3 non-profit status last June. For more information, send email to sherrishamwell@gmail.com or visit pursesforchange.vpweb.com or Facebook/PursesforChange.

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