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MSP's Purses with a Purpose Returns Statewide for Second Year

When Tpr. Andrea Tillman began brainstorming about a community service effort for her post area, she found a focus during a meeting with a loyal partner, the Oasis Family Resource Center. The group discussed getting residents involved in events throughout the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“In our line of work, we see people leaving horrible situations all the time, and sometimes they can’t even grab necessities like a toothbrush or clean socks,” said Trooper Tillman, assigned to the Cadillac Post. “I saw something online and tweaked the idea to fit our need. That’s how we started Purses with a Purpose.”

More than 500 purses were collected and filled for survivors seeking help at Oasis. It was an easy decision to make the effort an annual thing.

Then came March of 2020 and the global pandemic. Everything stopped.

The following year, 2021, presented new opportunities. The Michigan State Police (MSP) had recently started Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

Trooper Tillman, along with friend and co-worker Tpr. Cabria Shirley, who co-chairs the Community Involvement committee of the Women Leading Change ERG, suggested the group expand Purses with a Purpose to be a statewide initiative.

“This was our committee’s first ’big’ project,” said Trooper Shirley. “Like the original initiative, it was super successful with more than 6,000 purses, and countless comfort items, collected during the monthlong donation drive.”

Every MSP district participated and will again in 2022 with more posts taking part.

“Our purpose is to make an impact as women of the Michigan State Police,” said Chelsea Deckler, Chairperson, Women Leading Change ERG. “This effort is women, and men in the department too, helping women in the communities we serve, which is fitting as we reflect on Women’s History Month during March.”

Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights is one of the benefitting organizations. They offer life-saving programs to more than 750 youth and families each year, providing educational, mental health and basic needs for many young survivors of abuse and neglect.  

“The goods and items collected through the Purses with a Purpose initiative provided youth and families served by Vista Maria’s programs both comfort and dignity,” said Mary Vogt, Chief Development Officer for Vista Maria.  “We are tremendously grateful to our partners at the Michigan State Police and for their efforts collecting basic needs supplies and purses for those in our care, and sharing in our mission to protect, encompass, embolden and empower youth to achieve a future full of possibility.”

To find a donation event near you, visit the Community Calendar on MSP’s website. Collection locations will be added throughout March and April as they are scheduled.