Published Dec. 18, 2020
By KEA YENGST
During the holiday season, many Carmel High School students enjoy exchanging gifts with friends and family. This holiday season, junior Brooke Miller has been able to pay it forward with Princess and the Purse, a nonprofit organization that provides purses filled with essential hygiene products for homeless women across the county.
Along with being a member of the CHS cheer squad, Miller has been able to apply the same spirit and ambition off the field by preparing bags filled with essentials for women in need. Princess and the Purse isn’t anything new to the teen. Prior to moving to Carmel before her freshman year, Miller’s mother, Diane Fownes, had already initiated the project while they were living in east Canada.
“I remember going to a gala that she used to host, usually around Christmas time,” the student says. “My mom asked if we could bring it back to Carmel when we moved, and I was all for it.”
Since community service requirements for students isn’t as common in Canada as it is at CHS, Miller saw the project as an opportunity to get the necessary 60 service hours that CHS mandates for student graduation, while also being a way to integrate herselt into the new community she now calls home.
Within three years, Princess and the Purse has been able to provide women in need with more than 400 purses and bags, 160 this year alone, making a record high for the non-profit.
“You’d think it would be less this year, especially with the fact that people aren’t going to go out and go to certain locations, but this year was the most so far,” Miller says. “I think it’s just being more integrated in the community and having those connections.”
All donations are made through collection of purses in bins accessible throughout the Monterey area. Locations include police stations, schools and other access points for the public. Bins for purses and other essential items, like toiletries, journals and makeup, are available for three to four weeks and marketed and communicated through the help of Brooke’s mother.
“Usually, we take all the bins back to our main office and empty them out and usually get a couple of people to help out,” Miller explains. “I’ll try and bring the cheer squad, anyone who is willing to lend a helping hand. We then separate all the shampoo and other necessities into bags.”
Princess and the Purse has been able to provide necessities to women in need across Monterey County during a season where giving is key.
“I’ve only been in this community for three years, and Princess and the Purse has grown so much,” Miller adds. “I’m a junior this year and next year is my last year, and I guess we’ll have to see where it goes from there.”