By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
Those who have been in the hospitality industry for more than five years will remember Patricia Brusha as co-founder of Online Revealed, the lively conference that guided us through the sometimes puzzling Internet world for a decade starting in 2005. She and Alicia Whalen called themselves "A Couple of Chicks," and among the staff at the later conferences was Patricia's daughter, Courtney.
When I caught up with Patricia on LinkedIn recently, I wished her a happy birthday and said to say hello to her lovely daughter. The answer I got back was quick and totally unexpected. "Oh Colleen, sadly and tragically my beautiful daughter Courtney passed away in June from stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver. As you can imagine I'm heartbroken, she was my best friend. I started a non-profit from an idea she had before she died. You can read about it here www.purse-impressions.com. Sorry to break the news and it was thoughtful of you to think of her."
The explanation regarding how Purse-Impressions came to be appears on the non-profit's website. Its logo is a frog because Courtney collected frogs.
"Courtney Michaels was an amazing, beautiful and energetic girl. Courtney was bigger than life!
"She sincerely cared about the people in her life. She had a habit of just reaching out spontaneously to let someone know she was thinking about them, cared about how they were doing or just wanting to tell them............she loved them.
"She did, however, experience some difficult times in her short life. She spent time at the Renascent in Toronto, Canada, and Aurora Behavioural Health System in Tempe, AZ, in an effort to get better.
"Suddenly and tragically at 28 years old, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver from years of alcohol abuse. Both her liver and kidneys began to deteriorate at a rapid pace. Although her organs may have shut down, it was her addiction that took her life.
"Before she left us, Courtney told her mother, Patricia, about an idea she had.
"She didn't like that women who graduated from Rehab often left there with their personal items in a plastic bag. She wanted better for them. She wanted those women to hold their heads high, to be proud of their amazing accomplishment and to leave with something that showed their value.
"At that point, she thought she had won the battle and wanted to give back.
"This is how Purse-Impressions came to be!
"Purse-Impressions transforms the tragedy and heartbreak of losing a child from addiction into inspiration and compassion for others who are overcoming addiction in their own lives.
"Patricia and her team of 'Courtney’s Angels' volunteer their time and resources to gifting as many handbags as possible to women leaving rehabilitation centers in multiple states including Arizona and Canada.
"Off to a great start, Purse-Impressions gathered 400 purses (in lieu of flowers) and items to stuff them for Courtney's Memorial July 13, 2019. They were donated to the Renascent Centre, which has approximately 400 graduates a year!"
After becoming an official Nonprofit Organization in September 2019, Purse-Impressions donated an additional 300 purses (and backpacks for men) for the holiday season, totalling 700 donations for the year. In just four months they have expanded to seven facilities they support with purses, one in Toronto and one in Milton, Ont., two in Arizona, two in Florida and one in Colorado. Patricia anticipates they will more than double the number of recipient facilities in 2020.
"I have had a number of people inquire about starting a chapter in their area to provide donations to rehab centres in their community," Patricia explains, "Purse-Impressions will provide branding material, the note from Courtney included in each Purse and guidelines for what to stuff in each bag."
Items for purses can be bought off a shopping list on Amazon that was created for an easy and affordable way to donate, or they happily accept cash donations. Purses are stuffed with essentials for a fresh start for rehab graduates including, shampoo, creme rinse, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and feminine products to name a few.
"Bags & Brunch," Purse-Impressions' 1st Annual Fundraiser will be held February 23 in Carefree, Arizona. Tickets are on sale now on the website. Additional fundraisers will be held online throughout the year.
The head office is located in Arizona; however the company is expanding with the chapter model and can always use volunteers to help gather purses or to be the lead or worker bee for a local chapter in their city.
Further information on volunteering, donating or becoming a corporate sponsor, contact Patricia at email@example.com
"I have found that since I started the charity it seems everyone knows someone fighting addiction of some sort," Patricia wrote me on LinkedIn. "It's like something people have been afraid to talk about, but the face of an addict looks like anyone!"