Connect to...It's in the Bag: the Women's Group's Successful Initiative

Amy Epstein with the donated handbags

Amy Epstein with the donated handbags

When the Engage Women’s Group began meeting, one of the biggest challenges was to identify projects that would serve as role models for the group’s long-term mission. One morning while Amy Epstein was listening to the radio, a discussion about a coat drive got her attention. Soon after, she began looking into ways that this concept could become a project for the Women’s Group. This was the beginning of a new initiative and partnership for Engage, one that the Women’s Group could call their own.

Amy wasted no time in presenting the idea to Rabbi Brian Fink and, with his approval, began doing some research. She contacted Melissa Norden, the executive director of Bottomless Closet New York, a nonprofit that prepares disadvantaged women for transition to the workforce. The organization works with women sent from about 100 agencies across the five boroughs of New York City, outfitting and coaching them for interviews and helping them put together resumes. Norden welcomed the opportunity to work with Engage.

The Women’s Group, enthusiastic about the proposed project, met to decide the best way to make a contribution to Bottomless Closet and the many women the organization serves. They chose to donate one item every women needs, a good handbag. Working as a team they planned a handbag drive at the JCC. Susan Kranberg, Engage community organizer,  recognized the project’s potential and took over coordinating the drive, organizing a table manned by Women’s Group members in the JCC's lobby. 

“The response has been phenomenal,” Epstein told me. “On the first day a woman came in with a shopping cart filled with handbags.” The drive continued just as strongly throughout the month. This is good news for the Bottomless Closet. “Purses are one great need,” Norden says. She has invited the Women’s Group to tour the Bottomless Closet's facilities to explore other ways the group can support the organization.

“The group came together for this,” Epstein observes. "Women helping women, a mission they all can support."