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‘Power of the Purse’ brunch returns for 8th year

Power of the Purse Brunch attendees sit at round tables talking and eating.
Attendees of the brunch enjoying food catered from Hill’s BBQ and Catering (Robert Quinn/WUFT News)

A fundraiser supporting victims of domestic violence has made its way back to the Gainesville Woman’s Club.

Peaceful Paths is the certified domestic violence center that provides free and confidential services to survivors of domestic violence in Alachua, Bradford and Union counties in Florida. The services provided include an emergency shelter, 24-hour helpline and economic empowerment education and support. Each year, a brunch named ‘Power of the Purse’ serves to raise funds for Peaceful Paths’ economic empowerment program through an auction of purses and a raffle.

The event had about 160 people in attendance Saturday, growth from the 40 people in attendance for the first year of its existence. Also, over 200 purses were donated from a variety of retail vendors and community members. At the event, attendees were able to purchase and place bids on the purses available from their phones. It also included anecdotes from those who have bettered their lives through the services provided by Peaceful Paths.

Theresa Beachy has been with Peaceful Paths for 23 years and currently serves as executive director.

“It's a unique event in the community,” Beachy said. “And it's also something that's really geared towards one of the fundamentals in being able to help survivors change their future. And that's financial stability.”

The structure of the event appealed to those in attendance for a variety of reasons.

“I love the purses,” said Joanne Edde, a Gainesville resident in attendance. “Also the fact that it’s a brunch and always on a Saturday.”

Additionally, those in attendance also noted the appeal of the event’s ‘togetherness’ and acceptance of everyone.

Amy Parziale, a professor at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, has only been living in Gainesville for three years, but Peaceful Paths, along with the Power of the Purse brunch, has allowed her to build connections in the community.

“Just the social aspect of it,” Parziale said. “Meeting people hasn’t been as easy in a post-COVID world.”

She noted that the faculty meetings within the college of business are still online, so Peaceful Paths has played an important role in her face-to-face socialization.

Moreover, those in attendance mentioned the specific cause that Power of the Purse supports, which is the economic empowerment program, as a reason for their continued attendance.

The program is designed to help domestic violence survivors gain financial literacy, put them on a path toward self-sufficiency and help them feel like they have choices and aren’t dependent on a partner to survive, Beachy said.

“The economic side of domestic violence. It’s not usually talked about,” said Rafaela Pelegrina, a Peaceful Paths worker.

Pelegrina also noted that the tangible effects of the economic empowerment program have already been realized in the community, with individuals receiving financial education in order to better their lives.

“We're also a credit reporting agency,” Beachy said. “So we can pull credit reports and help people see where maybe their partner has done things that are damaging to their credit or help them engage in some credit repair while they're with us.”

L.I.F.E. stands for ‘Live Independently Financially Empowered,’ and it refers to the series of financial literacy classes provided by Peaceful Paths that cover topics such as what constitutes economic abuse, budgeting, credit and financial planning.

Additionally, L.I.F.E. includes workshops, microloans and job-readiness support, said Wes Strickland, the vice chairman of the Rays of Hope Foundation.

Rays of Hope is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that focuses on helping promote charitable assistance to organizations that support growth and development of youth in the community. Therefore, they work closely with providing funding to Peaceful Paths’ economic empowerment program.

Powered by Radiant Credit Union, Rays of Hopes accepts donations from members and employees while also receiving contributions from Radiant’s partners. Rays of Hope also provided volunteers for this year’s Power of the Purse brunch, Strickland said.

Robert is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.