It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I had to share this. As part of the incredible Propel Women’s Cohort at Wheaton College (where I am working on my Master’s degree in Evangelism and Leadership), I get to meet the most amazing women. Heather Case is one of those women. Her overcoming shame story is too powerful not to share — because she is literally using her story to transform lives! Plus, she’s a Floridian- and I know we all want to stand with and encourage hurricane survivors right now!
Heather is the founder of One Purse, a non-profit organization committed to empowering survivors of sex trafficking. One Purse uses the power of the purse, an item every American woman has in her closet, to provide sex trafficking survivors with an opportunity to live freely, embrace redemption, and pursue a confident future.
Here’s our conversation:
Heather, tell me a little bit about One Purse? What inspired you to start?
Believe it or not, One Purse was born out of an experience that I had with a handbag. I was shopping in an upscale consignment store, and found a purse that I fell in love with. I wanted this purse so badly, but the price tag was a bit more than I could justify spending at the time, so I showed restraint and left the purse behind. However, this bag did not leave me. I could not stop thinking about it and went back several times to visit the purse. One time I even brought a friend along with me, hoping she’d encourage me to splurge. But as I thought about my affections for this bag, God began to impress something upon my heart, “For the amount of money you’re considering spending on this one purse, you could change someone’s life.”
With that, One Purse was born.
In 2011, we hosted our very first One Purse Gathering. I invited a group of women to bring a gently loved handbag and swap it for another purse, in exchange for a donation to help change the life of another in need. So rather than spend money on a new purse at the store, each woman left our One Purse Gathering with a “new” purse and a sense of purpose, because she had helped change someone else’s life. It was a gathering filled with great significance, a little fashion, and a lot of fun!
How does One Purse connect to overcoming shame for you?
At 20 years-old, my life was headed down a very dark and destructive path. I was involved in a violent relationship and was making choices that I never dreamed I would make. Eventually I found the courage to leave that relationship and make some changes in my life, but I was very wounded and broken.
Today these experiences are the places that I draw compassion from to care for the sex trafficking survivors that we serve. I tell them that God allowed me to hit the reset button on the trajectory of my life, and how he turned the ashes of my pain into beauty through his love. I encourage them that God can make all things new and that if they will trust in him, God has an amazing plan for their future. He will restore their dreams and use their lives in beautiful ways to be a blessing to others.
What are some of your dreams for each woman who is helped with by One Purse?
We want to see each woman that we serve take hold of a new dream for her life. And we want to help her to chart a new course forward to achieving that dream. Sometimes her next right step is furthering her education. Sometimes it’s vocational training. Other times it is gaining skills in areas that they are passionate about like yoga instruction or leadership training. We believe that the greatest gift that we can give to survivors is to help them to achieve economic stability and develop skills that will enable them to fulfill their dreams.
What does it look like to host a One Purse Event?
It’s pretty straightforward, but very powerful. Invite your girlfriends or your small group, or MOPS group to host a gathering to “Exchange a Purse to Change a Life.” When you sign up to host an event through OnePurse.org, we provide each hostess with a hostess guide, a checklist, a gathering schedule, a video about One Purse, bag tags, creative ideas, and more.
Women are asked to donate one or more of their gently loved purses to be exchanged for a purse that is “new” to them. When women make their “new” purse selection at the gathering, they give a monetary donation in exchange for the purse, and all of the funds received are used towards the Restore Her Dream Fund TM.
This is a simple, yet significant way for you and your girlfriends to make a difference in the life of a sex trafficking survivor. You can host a gathering with women in your neighborhood, at the office, or in your church. Anywhere a group of women come together, you can turn it into a One Purse Gathering, and through your generosity, the lives of survivors will be touched and changed forever.
And for women and/or group leaders who are interested in doing this through their groups or learning more?
For more information on how to host a successful One Purse Gathering, or to give directly to our Restore Her Dream Fund, visit us at OnePurse.org today. Contact us through our website at Onepurse.org or email any specific requests to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can, Restore Her Dream!
As always, may you live without shame in Jesus’ name!