YWCA Holds Annual Purse & Passion Luncheon

The YWCA was excited to continue our yearlong 110th birthday celebration at this year’s 14th Annual Purse & Passion Luncheon. Attendees were shown a special video featuring students from the YWCA child care center reflecting on what it is like to be 110 years old, sending the YW birthday wishes and singing “Happy Birthday” to the YWCA.
The YW got an extra special birthday surprise when a last minute guest arrived to celebrate with us at Purse & Passion – new YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. She was in town unexpectedly and instead of a quiet, catch-up lunch with Suzanne, she got to have lunch with over 1,300 YW friends! What a treat!
The Luncheon also included the triumphant and motivational stories of Erin and her family who benefited from the YWCA’s Supervised Visitation program and the teens from the YWoodlawn Creating Responsible Educated Working (CREW) summer job training program. 
The supervised visitation program helps families focus more on parenting and less on past trauma. During a visit a staff member escorts the child from the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent and a supervisor is present at all times. This allows the parents to never come in contact with one another.
The Summer CREW program provides work training and enrichment opportunities for our YWoodlawn teens. Students worked within the Woodlawn community, with neighborhood cleanup and revitalization, while four others traveled to the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) campsite at Bluff Park and provided support for the UCP summer camp program.
Medallion Honorees at this year’s luncheon were Elna Riley and Elna Riley Brendel – two passionate and persevering women, a mother and daughter, whose service and commitment to the YWCA spans almost 50 years. Riley served as a YWCA Board member for 25 years. Brendel represented the Church of the Advent as a Board Member of Interfaith Hospitality House (IHH) before it became a part of the YWCA, and became a catalyst for the Summer CREW program. For over four decades, the service of these two “Women of the YW” has enriched the lives of the women, children and families we serve.
The Medallion award recognizes outstanding contributions to the greater Birmingham community and to the YWCA and its programs. Elna Brendel accepted the award on behalf of her mother.
The luncheon theme this year was “Walking in Their Shoes.” There is a great saying, “Don’t judge a person until you have walked in their shoes.” But in reality that is hard to do and often very impractical. What attendees at the luncheon learned was that we may not be able to walk in your shoes, but will be beside you for your journey. The YWCA programs represent being beside someone as they are putting their life back together, healing or learning new skills for a better life.
In keeping with the theme, the unique centerpieces were designed using new shoes that were generously donated to the YWCA by Belk and Guy Savage, owner of Power Force Apparel. After the luncheon was over, the shoes were donated to My Sister’s Closet and the women we will serve.
The Purse & Passion Luncheon is the YWCA’s single largest fundraiser. It would not be possible without the outstanding support of our community partners, corporate sponsors and our wonderful donors. Major support for the luncheon came from Belk, Harbert Management Corporation, PFT Services, Alabama Power Company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Protective Life Corporation, Red Diamond, Regions Financial and al.com/The Birmingham News.
The YWCA would like to extend a special thank you to all of the many volunteers who helped make this luncheon an overwhelming success. To learn more about the YWCA or if you are interested in donating to one of the YW’s programs, please click here.

YWCA Holds Annual Purse & Passion Luncheon