Handbags for Hope

These are samples of designer purses that were donated to last year’s Handbags for Hope event that raises funds for cancer care through Upper Allegheny Healthcare System. Designer handbags and other new items can be donated for the fund drive beginning next week.

OLEAN — While cancellations of public events have been necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, virtual fundraisers have become the new way to help charities.

With that in mind, organizers of the annual Handbags for Hope event, which raises money for the Mildred Milliman Radiation Medicine Center, have scheduled a virtual auction this year.

Janene Coldren, communications specialist with Upper Allegheny Health System, said the donation of new designer purses as well as a variety of other items, can be dropped off at the Bartlett Country Club in Olean, Dina’s in Ellicottville, Moonwinks in Cuba and the Bradford Club in Bradford, Pa., from noon to 5 p.m. July 7 through 10.

The handbags and other suggested items such as laptops, cameras, grills, theme park tickets and gift certificates, will be auctioned off during the virtual “Girls Night In!” event Oct. 8. It replaces the annual “A Girl’s Night Out” event which had been sponsored by Upper Allegheny and held at the Seneca Allegany Casino the past several years.

Audrea Sirianni, special event coordinator of Olean General Hospital Foundation, said in the past the organization had conducted a Handbags for Hope dinner in June, which collected donated handbags and other items from attendees. The handbags were later auctioned off at A Girl’s Night Out, with proceeds benefiting the radiation center.

The virtual event in October, which will have an easy-to-navigate auction, expects to accomplish that same goal. Participants who purchase $35 raffle tickets for A Girl’s Night In can view live-streamed activities and entertainment as well as receive a voucher for to-go dinners from one of the four participating restaurants.

Sirianni said approximately 10 items, including three special Zippo lighters from the Blaisdell Foundation in Bradford, have been donated so far, even though the collection doesn’t start until July 7. She noted donated items must be new due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“We’ve gotten some really nice things,” she added.

Sirianni said the Handbags for Hope committee raised approximately $14,000 through last year’s auction, which was donated to the radiation center to purchase equipment and materials needed for patients.

Those interested in making monetary donations via credit card are asked to visit www.uahsgni.givesmart.com or text UAHSGNI to 76278. A link will be sent immediately and after the donor enters his or her name and email, they will see a direct link to donate.

More information on Handbags for Hope can also be obtained by calling 375-7377 or by sending emails to events@uahs.org.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)