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Buy a purse, help a veteran: Purses for a Purpose to raise funds for service dogs for vets

Karmel Wanzek, a member of the Paws4ward group, shows a few of the many purses that will be available for trade at the upcoming Purses for a Purpose event, which will help pay the cost of four service dogs for veterans. (Kari Lucin / The Sun)

People will get a chance to swap a purse for a designer upgrade while helping out veterans in need at the upcoming Purses for a Purpose event.

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The group organizing the purse exchange event hopes to raise $50,000, which will help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries get service dogs that can help them.

North Dakota lawmakers appropriated $50,000 to pay for about half the costs of training four service dogs, and the Paws4ward group hopes to fund the remainder, said one of its members, Karmel Wanzek.

“Our veterans need to know we have their back. They are in need of support,” Wanzek said.

Service dogs can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder in a number of ways, including helping them reintegrate into their communities, Nannenga said, but it takes about a year and a half of training and may cost $15,000 to $20,000 per dog.

The dogs can be trained to do all kinds of things, including taking a person out of a building, preventing high-risk behavior, forming a buffer between a person and a crowd, waking a person from night terrors, fetching medication, turning on lights, opening doors and retrieving items.

The purse exchange event, which also includes a silent auction, champagne and hors d’oeuvres, came out of a leadership class Wanzek took.

“We wanted to do a pay-it-forward project,” Wanzek said.

She and the rest of her team in the class  — Nathan McGough and Crystal Nehlich — decided to help raise the money to pay for the remaining costs of training for four service dogs, so that the veterans who will receive those dogs won’t have to. They dubbed themselves Paws4ward.

The event is set for 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Quality Inn & Suites, 507 25th St. SW, Jamestown.

Silent auction items will include a set of four tickets to a University of North Dakota hockey game, with dinner, a leather Harley-Davidson coat and purse, nail treatments and foot massages, Coach purses, tablet computers, jewelry from Riddle’s Jewelry, a Coach dog collar and a variety of gift cards.

“We’re going to pair them with purses,” Wanzek said.

Cheaper than Therapy will perform at the event, and complementary cider beer from Valley Sales and champagne from Cork & Barrel will be served.

At the beginning of the event, each person will give her or his purses to a volunteer, who will give them a ticket with the number of purses she or he gave on it.

People who purchase VIP tickets at $25 will go into the room to choose new purses first, followed by those who bought general admission tickets at $20. People in both groups will be able to take home only as many purses as they brought.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to shop for Valentine’s Day,” Wanzek said, noting that men may benefit from attending the event too, and that some of the silent auction items were intended for them.

The dogs that will be trained with funds from Purses for a Purpose will come from Service Dogs for America, in Jud, N.D., and they will likely go to veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Shelley Nannenga, developmental director of SDA, noted that North Dakota’s suicide rate is high in general, and said that 13 veterans had committed suicide just last year.

“It’s a large group of people,” Nannenga said. “We need to stop this. We need to support our guys.”

About 100 tickets for the Purses for a Purpose event have been sold, and about an equal number remain.

To purchase tickets or help sponsor Purses for a Purpose, call (701) 845-2712 or (701) 658-0330, or email Tickets are also available at Quality Inn & Suites

Gently used or new designer purses or wallets can be donated for the event as well, by bringing them to Dacotah Bank in Valley City, First Community Credit Union or Unison Bank in Jamestown, or by calling (701) 658-0330 to schedule a pick-up.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at

Kari Lucin

Kari Lucin joined the Grand Forks Herald as a multimedia producer in August 2014. Previously, she worked for a few years at the Jamestown Sun in Jamestown, N.D., as a staff writer, and prior to that, for about six years as staff writer and later online content coordinator, at the Daily Globe in Worthington, Minn. A graduate of Jackson County Central High School and Augsburg College, she has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and English. Find more of her writing at her blog, Oh Look, a Shiny Thing! or on Twitter at @karilucin.

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