People tried to outbid one another for 70 purses Thursday at Knicely Conference Center during the sixth annual U.S. Bank Handbags for Hope fundraiser.

Hundreds flock to the event each year, hoping to score new handbags and help raise money for United Way of South Central Kentucky and its kindergarten readiness programs.

“People want to support, in this instance, it’s children, childhood, kindergarten readiness, and there’s a lot of kids that don’t have the opportunity to be ready … so it’s a very unifying organization (and) event for the betterment of our community,” fundraiser specialist Travis Ayers said. “You can take a lot of time to make money and pile it up, but there’s a lot more joy in getting rid of it than there is to pile it up.”

The event included a silent and live auction, along with designer handbag giveaways.

During the silent auction, rows of purses lined the walls of the room and attendees unzipped zippers, reached into pockets and examined material before deciding whether to bid.

The 58 handbags are ones “you might find at a local department store, to Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Coach, a lot of higher-end bags,” said Jennifer Richardson, donor relations manager for United Way.

First-time attendee Erin Woodward had her eye on a multicolor Tory Burch clutch.

“There is a beautiful, unique, sort of eclectic clutch, that completely suits my style because my husband and I like to go on a lot of dinner dates and I like to dress up. I know it’s – I’m probably too old to play dress up – but it speaks to me, I think I have to bid on that bag,” Woodward said.

Woodward said she decided to check out the fundraiser after learning about it both online and by word of mouth.

“I’ll compliment someone I see in town and say, ‘Hey girl, I love your bag’ and they’ll say, ‘Thanks, I got it at Handbags for Hope last year,’ so I thought, well, I’m gonna go and see what it’s all about,” Woodward said.

It was also the first time at the event for Stephanie Booth, who came with co-workers from Franklin Bank & Trust.

“There’s a couple of Michael Kors and Vera (Wang) bags that I had seen, and a couple of them were a little expensive. But I started on those bids early, so I bet they’re getting really high right now,” Booth said.

Richardson said locally “well-known men” model the 15 handbags available during the live auction. Those bags also come with an experience, such as a trip to Holiday World in Indiana or to Nashville.

Most of the purses up for grabs are donated, and the others are purchased by members of United Way using monetary donations.

Those who attended the event also had the option to sponsor a child through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides children with a book each month from birth until age 5.

Tickets for the five-hour fundraiser had been sold out since the end of March, and last year it churned out more than $87,000 for United Way.

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