Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some East Rowan alumnae have jumped-started the 2013 Helping Handbags collection by donating 150 bags.

The Salisbury Post collects new and gently used handbags each year at this time for a Helping Handbags sale. Proceeds go to help families buy gifts for their children through the Christmas Happiness fund. .

The women, who are a part of the Mustang Minx, a small group from the Class of 1975, decided they would shoot for 75 bags. They doubled their goal.

“We couldn’t imagine a child waking up without anything. We felt like we had so much to give,” said Teresa Cress.

Since the women’s 20th reunion, they have continued to meet regularly at least four times a year, sometimes more. There are about a dozen who meet regularly for lunch or dinner, and the women have supported one another during the births of their children and grandchildren, weddings as well as during times of sorrow.

“Most of us have known each other since elementary school. We are the biggest supporters of each other,” said Teresa Cress.

The women began meeting after their reunion for brunch every other month. The group would gather at different restaurants and their homes — and then their meals extended to overnight stays and beach trips.

“We just have a ball. We all have so much in common,” she said.

Cress said she and the other women met for a meal recently after some of them, herself included, had deaths in the family. She wondered if they could all give to an organization, honoring the support that was given to them.

Cress’ sister had pancreatic cancer and succumbed to her disease. Cress drew inspiration from her sister, who she says was a “giver.”

When the idea came about to donate to the purse sale, Cress sent emails, Facebook messages and made phone calls in order to see if her friends could help with the collection. The women set their goal at 75 to match with the year they graduated, but by the end of the week they discovered they’d accrued double their goal.

“Through the years, we have given so much love and support to each other we felt it was time to share our support. The Salisbury Post Helping Handbags was definitely a heartwarming project for us all,” she said.

The women have said they look forward to beating their 150 goal and collecting even more bags next year.

The women also include: Sandy Pardue, Diane Ryan and granddaughter Alexis Owens, Bev Ryan, Donna Peacock, Tina Ketner, Rita Honeycutt, Phyllis Whitaker, Jamie Burleson, Betty Duncan and Debbie Barrier.

The proceeds from the purse sale go to the Christmas Happiness Fund. The fund is a campaign that helps families in need buy gifts for their children. The Salisbury Post sponsors the program and collects the contributions. This year, the Salvation Army will distribute the donations. The fund began in 1952 when the late Spencer Murphy, then editor of the Post, urged the community to give money so that every child could have toys on Christmas.

For more information about Helping Handbags or to donate a new or gently used purse, tote or wallet, contact Sharon Jackson at 704-797-4238 or drop a purse off at the Salisbury Post, 131 W. Innes St., Salisbury.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: Facebook: