Inspired by what she describes as the “generosity of the Santa Barbara community,” longtime resident Cheryl Giefer launched a donations and distribution movement she is calling The Purse Project S.B.
“It was the beginning of the pandemic,” Giefer explained. “Women were cleaning out their closets and had nowhere to send their donations.” Giefer, who also volunteers with nonprofit Adams Angels, took note of the surplus of purses the organization was receiving, and an idea was sparked: she would fill the purses with the basics, everything from toiletries to snacks to socks, and hand-deliver them to those in need.
From there, The Purse Project S.B. began growing at a rate that surprised even Giefer.
“The first really substantial donation I received was an awesome stroke of Santa Barbara magic,” she recalls. When dining at a local restaurant, Giefer ran into a friend and began chatting about the project. “She introduced me to the friend she was with, who asked if I had heard of Bombas socks.” Coincidentally, Giefer had just reached out to the company for a donation, but was waitlisted due to the high demand.
But good fortune was on her side. Giefer’s friend’s dining partner had a direct connection. “He said, ‘The owner is my friend. Let’s see if I can help’. He did. I had 1,000 pairs of brand-new Bombas socks less than two weeks later.”
Giefer has received help from others in the community, as well, including Santa Barbara Middle School, who designated the Purse Project S.B. a school-wide outreach endeavor. “Last June, Headmaster Brian McWilliams asked each student to donate a filled purse or backpack,” Giefer said. “Brian promised the students that if they donated 200 bags, he would shave his head live on Zoom. Well, we got over 300 bags so we had to shave the head of another (willing) teacher too, because hey, they went above and beyond!”
When it comes to distributing the stuffed bags, Giefer isn’t shy. She has a tendency to recruit anyone she comes into contact with ― and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “I pack the filled bags into the trunks of anyone who comes to my house,” she said. “Delivery drivers, the gardening crew, repairmen ― literally everyone. They come back with the best stories of their experiences distributing them. It sparks people to reach out, to make someone experiencing real hardship feel cared for.”
But honestly, Giefer isn’t too surprised by folks’ readiness to help out. “It confirmed what I knew: we are the most generous community I have ever lived in.”
Purses, backpacks, and supplies are handed out at Alameda Park every Thursday from 3-5 p.m. (followed by food distribution at 6 p.m.).
Most Needed Items:
Reusable water bottles
New underwear (men and women)
First aid kits
Face and body wipes
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Individually wrapped healthy snacks
Unused merchandise (Prevent waste — donate!)