Submitted by Lydia Place

Thursday, September 16th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Lydia Place, along with presenting sponsor, San Juan Broadband, are bringing Bellingham’s largest fashion extravaganza and handbag exchange, Handbags for Housing, back with a first ever, hybrid event—featuring a fully vaccinated in-person event on Thursday, and a virtual auction continuing through Sunday, September 19th at 5 p.m. PST.  

A photo from 2019’s Handbag Bazaar, which was filled with hundreds of handbags priced from $10-$50. Photo credit: Evantide Photography

Entering its 9th year, Handbags for Housing—Lydia Place’s second largest annual auction and fundraiser—is taking back centerstage with a tropical paradise themed event to bring some much-needed fun and R&R to the community. Guests can flock to the Barkley Village Green and to, where they can shop hundreds of new and previously loved handbags curated to fit every style and budget, support local boutiques and retailers showcased in the fashion show, and raise critical funding for hundreds of families in our community experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness. 

Since its first appearance in 2013, Handbags for Housing has raised over half a million dollars for Lydia Place programs and services. With its long-term partner and Fashion Show sponsor, Labels Women’s Consignment Shop, Handbags for Housing is about empowerment and creating a format where fashion and philanthropy come together to leverage positive change. Together with over 50 local boutiques and retailers, business sponsors, and event partners, this year’s event has a fundraising goal of $125,000 and will spotlight the important role that Lydia Place’s Parent Support Program has as families look to get back to “normal” this fall.  

A shot from the 2019 Handbags for Housing event, which took place on the green at Barkley Village. Photo credit: Evantide Photography

According to their last annual newsletter, “Only one in four low-income children are fully prepared to start Kindergarten. Our Parent Support Program promotes school readiness to help close this gap.” On average, Lydia Place’s PSP provides 500 home visits to families with young children who are enrolled in their housing programs. This year, in addition to their admission ticket, Handbags for Housing guests have the option of bringing either a new or previously loved handbag from their closet or donating a new children’s book to their Parent Support Program, which has a goal to leave one age-appropriate book with every child, every visit. 

Though it is not completely clear what the long-term impact the pandemic will have on Whatcom County families, Tally Rabatin, Lydia Place’s Community Engagement Director remains hopeful.  “Our agency is extremely grateful to our community members and partners that have continued to step up and contribute how and where they can,” she says. Those dollars, services, and partnerships were critical to making sure Lydia Place’s doors remained opened and we can continue to provide essential housing, parenting, and mental health services to the families in our community.”

Close to half of Lydia Place’s now $2.9-million budget depends on the generosity of community members who support the agency by way of cash donations, business sponsorships, bequests, foundations, and guest attendance at various fundraising events throughout the year. 

For those unable to attend Handbags for Housing on Thursday, September 16th, you can register as a virtual auction guest for free and shop the online handbag auction until it closes Sunday, September 19th at 5 p.m. PST. 

All proceeds from Handbags for Housing benefit Lydia Place, a local nonprofit agency working to disrupt the cycle of homelessness for current and future generations. You can purchase tickets, donate a handbag to support Lydia Place’s online auction, sign-up to volunteer, and more at

Looking for other ways to help local families in need? You can get involved by becoming a Lydia Place Housing Hero. For as little as $5 per month, you can help Lydia Place continue to say “yes” to families in need of emergency housing. For more information or to set up your recurring gift today, please visit:

Featured photo by Evantide Photography

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