SAGINAW, Michigan (WNEM) — When the pandemic proved to be more than a two-week pause on life last year, Tracy Rainey and the Bay Area Women’s Center saw their numbers decline.

“Everybody was just kind of staying at home. I think survivors were just kinda trying to do the best they could to just kind of stay in place wherever they were. But that is definitely changing,” Rainey said.

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Which makes programs like Purses with a Purpose even more critical.

“There’s a significant amount of sexual assault and domestic violence that occurs in our communities. In fact, as of last week when I spoke with Shelterhouse, their shelter is currently full,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Kim Vetter said.

Vetter and the Michigan State Police are asking for donations of purses and toiletry items during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

In the tri-city area, the purses and items will go to the Bay Area Women’s Center, Saginaw Underground Railroad, and Shelterhouse in Midland.

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“A lot of times when a woman specifically is the victim of a trauma or a sexual assault, they have to leave their situation very quickly and many times have to leave all of their belongings behind and only have the clothes on their back,” Vetter said. “So supplying them with a small bag or purse while they’re recovering from that trauma with the toiletry items they need to be comfortable is really important.”

This is the first time Purses with a Purpose is happening statewide and the donations are rolling in.

Vetter said she has about 300 purses and more than 1,000 toiletry items.

“To have a new purse can sometimes just make that day just a little bit better,” Rainey said. “I think that really helps just restore some dignity and respect and somebody’s thinking about our survivors.”

There are still a few days left for anyone who would like to help out. Donations can be dropped off at the Michigan State Police Tri-City Post, located at 2402 W. Salzburg Road in Freeland, or at Rebel Co., a boutique shop on Gratiot Road in Shields. Vetter said they really need more masks and hand sanitizer.

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