Charity Coleraine Ashes to Gold has urged locals to donate to a vital campaign providing domestic abuse survivors with handbags full of essentials.
They collect unused handbags filled with everyday items – plus a few extras – before donating them to Causeway and Mid-Ulster Women’s Aid. Organizers of the ‘Love Grace’ handbag appeal say it’s a great way to free up wardrobe space while donating to a good cause.
Alison McCloskey, from Coleraine’s Ashes to Gold, said: ‘Handbags are collected and filled with basic items such as shower gel, shampoo and deodorant – as well as a few luxuries.
“We then attach a ‘Love Grace’ tag, wanting women to love on their journey to a secure future and, in our case, passing them on to Causeway and Mid Ulster Women’s Aid.
“Ashes to Gold is the premier collection center in Northern Ireland and we hope other groups across the country will follow our lead.”
To date, over 10,000 bags have been donated to women in England, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.
The ‘Love Grace’ campaign was set up by Grace Milane’s family in England who raise money for the White Ribbon charity, promoting awareness to end male violence against women.
Grace was brutally murdered on the eve of her 22nd birthday while traveling in New Zealand and her family created this legacy in her name.
Hannah O’Callaghan of the Milane family previously explained how Grace’s love of handbags sparked the idea for the call.
East Derry MP Claire Sugden supports the scheme and has offered her Abbey Street office as a drop-off point for donations.
“This is such a valid call that will have a real impact on the many women who experience domestic violence,” Ms Sugden said.
“I’m very honored to be able to offer all the help I can, and I urge anyone who can to donate to the program.
“I’m really proud of Ashes to Gold to be the first ‘Love Grace’ collection center in Northern Ireland. This local charity will hopefully encourage a wider appeal across the country – an appeal that could have a real and personal impact on survivors of domestic violence.
“Women fleeing violence in their homes often have little or no time to plan or pack their things, which means they end up arriving in temporary accommodation without even the essentials, such as toiletries. .
Jacqui McKinney, co-founder of Ashes to Gold, added: “We have had such a wonderful response in a short time from the local community and we feel truly blessed to be part of this campaign.”
You can find more information about Ashes to Gold and how to donate, either on the charity’s ‘Ashes to Gold Community’ Facebook page or by phoning 02870440375. You can leave donations at Claire’s office Sugden at 1 Upper Abbey Street, Coleraine.