By Lisa M. Onorato
For Hometown News
BREVARD - Enjoy a day of shopping, sweet treats and networking, all while helping mothers in need next month at the seventh annual "Purses with A Purpose" event Friday, Oct. 5 at the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront in Indialantic.
Serene Harbor, a domestic violence shelter in Brevard County, will host the fun-filled event, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and features lunch, a live auction of designer purses, more than 35 vendors, a silent auction and keynote speaker, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos.
"(Domestic violence) is pervasive in all socioeconomic groups - regardless of religion, status or race," said Nancy Peltonen, operations director at Serene Harbor.
According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, in 2011 there were 4,064 incidents of domestic violence in Brevard County. Of those, 3,164 were for simple assault and 729 were aggravated assault. The rest of the incidents include acts such as sexual assault, stalking and threats and intimidation.
Last year, Serene Harbor provided 3,909 nights of shelter for more than 200 women and children.
Ms. Peltonen said that a woman is most vulnerable after she has left his abuser.
"It's a very dangerous and difficult time for women of domestic violence," she said.
She added that 67 percent of victims murdered have been abused by their intimate partner in the last 12 months.
Serving Brevard since 1992, Serene Harbor also provides outreach services, counseling, victim advocacy and education.
"We're not just a shelter," Ms. Peltonen said.
Several of the shelter's educational outreach programs focus on prevention for children starting as earlier as third grade.
"We are working on the next generation," Ms. Peltonen said. "We focus on teaching children about healthy relationships, bullying and dealing with diversity."
Though the facility receives funds on both the state and federal level, Ms. Peltonen said that fundraisers and donations are the second-largest provider of funds for Serene Harbor.
"It's a twenty-four-seven job," she said.
In addition to the "Purses with Purpose" event, Serene Harbor will host a gala in February and its "What A Girl Wants" event in April.
Serene Harbor is always in need of donations, especially basic essentials like toiletries, sheets, pillows, towels, blankets and used cell phones.
Other items needed include cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.
"We always need gift cards and gas cards," Ms. Peltonen said "Walmart cards are great."
Though the facility can only house 16 women at a time, its staff will not turn anyone away.
"We work with other shelters and organizations and will find a way to help women in need," Ms. Peltonen said. "It can be a matter and life and death."
Tickets for "Purses with A Purpose are $40, and the cost includes lunch.
For more information about Serene Harbor, or to purchase tickets for "Purses with a Purpose," call (321) 726-8282 or visit www.sereneharbor.org.