Purses collected at MiaJo Boutique in Manchester, Iowa, will go to support victims of sexual assault.

An idea from a Manchester boutique hoping to help victims of sexual assault has become reality, sending victims a strong message that people care for them.

Darcy Schiess, the owner of MiaJo Boutique, collected 25 purses, putting clothing and other items in each. She then turned them over to Brandi Lewin, Regional Sexual Assault Response Team coordinator with Riverview Center. The organization provides services for individuals affected by sexual violence in 14 Iowa counties and two counties in Illinois.

Schiess said she got the idea from another boutique owner.


Schiess pitched the idea on Facebook to her shopping group.

“I can’t tell you how many people went out and bought purses to bring in here and donate,” she said. “... They saw a need and wanted to fill it immediately.”

Lewin said the purses might be brought to hospitals for assault victims.

“These bags are a good opportunity for us to provide survivors with a stylish purse and clothing so they can leave the hospital with a little bit more dignity than coming home in a hospital gown,” she said.

Lewin said the gift of the purses and their contents can’t be overlooked.

“Oftentimes, what might seem like a small gesture can be an enormous one to someone dealing with trauma,” she said. “This shows them there is support from other women and individuals from the community. It will make them feel like there are people out there who really care about them.”