More than $12,000 was raised for local nonprofit organizations during the Daily Journal and Lifestyles of Kankakee County Purse Palooza fundraiser Thursday at the Knights of Columbus in Kankakee.

Nearly 250 people attended the inaugural event with proceeds benefiting Duane Dean Behavioral Health Center, The Helen Wheeler Center for Community Mental Health, Sleep in Heavenly Peace and Project Re:Cycle.

The four organizations were chosen through a community-wide survey and each were featured in the September-October issue of Lifestyles of Kankakee County magazine.

Daily Journal advertising director Bev Sams welcomed those in attendance saying, “Thank you for being here. We’re so excited to get this evening started. We are raising money for four local nonprofit organizations and 100 percent of tonight’s proceeds will help them help others throughout the community.”

To begin the live auction portion of the evening, a purse game was held with the winner receiving a Kate Spade purse.

The fundraiser featured 10 live auction items, each complete with a designer purse. George Ryan, Jr. served as auctioneer, getting the crowd and their auction paddles going.

The auction item that garnered the most funds – $1,000 – was sponsored by the Daily Journal and Lifestyles of Kankakee County. The auction basket featured a large Dooney and Bourke plaid handbag and matching wallet, as well as a KitchenAid stand mixer and Pioneer Woman recipe cards and cooking utensils.

A total of $7,150 was raised through the live auction items.

The 15 silent auction items ranged from jewelry and health care services to fall décor and beauty products. Combined, the silent auction items went for a total of nearly $3,000.

The event also included a 50/50 raffle, food and door prizes, including a Fender guitar courtesy of King Music in Bradley and local food gift certificates.

Live music was provided by Matt Yeager and The South Side Social Club and when the band played a crowd favorite, “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll,” attendees hit the dance floor.

“Purses, people and music all for a good cause. What a fantastic evening,” said Kankakee County Associate Judge J. Imani Drew. “They (nonprofit organizations) give so much back into the community.”

“We are here to support our community and all the good things the organizations have done,” added Sally Evans.

Purse Palooza recipients

Duane Dean Behavioral Health Center and Rincon Family Services in Kankakee provide programs and resources for substance use-abuse and the disease of addiction.

Nearly two years ago, Rincon Family Services was brought in to partner with the Duane Dean Center. To date, the center serves 170 patients.

“Our biggest need at the current time is transportation,” said Bill Barnes, Duane Dean director of community relations and development.

The center’s two passenger vans transport patients to the center from Momence, Manteno, Pembroke, Hopkins Park and even Dwight and Watseka. The van is also used to help patients get to medical appointments, court dates and even to buy groceries.

“Our vans are not in good shape. But we do what we can with what we have,” Barnes said.

Proceeds from the live and silent auction items during the event will go toward the purchase of a new van.

The Helen Wheeler Center for Community Mental Health in Kankakee is a comprehensive outpatient behavioral health agency that provides mental health services to children, adolescents and adults.

The center is a community-based outpatient mental health clinic. The Helen Wheeler Center serves 1,100 consumers each year, those on Medicaid and those without insurance.

They provide counseling and therapy sessions, psychiatric services, case management, screening assessment and support services, crisis intervention and a new pay therapy room.

President and CEO Jackie Haas said, “As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on fundraising and donations. We thank Lifestyles of Kankakee County, the Daily Journal and all those here tonight.”

Because the Helen Wheeler Center is solely focused on patient care, many everyday items are overlooked. Chairs clients sit in during therapy sessions are 25 years old and a new vacuum is needed, just to name a few. Employees are in need of educational materials such as clinical workbooks used in therapy sessions and resource books used during treatment sessions.

Proceeds from the Purse Palooza live and silent auction items will help the center purchase those everyday, needed items.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace is dedicated to building, assembling and delivering bunk beds to children and families in need. Tim Zydek heads Sleep in Heavenly Peace Kankakee Area Chapter with the mission that “no kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”

Since the local chapter formed 18 months ago, 175 bunk beds have been built, equating to 350 children off the floor and getting a proper night sleep in their own bed, stated Zydek.

“Our current need is for more tools and funds to build more beds,” Zydek said.

He noted the organization is also in need of volunteers on build days and to deliver beds.

During Purse Palooza, sweet treats were sold. Those who purchased a cupcake, provided by Pattycakes Cupcakery, were entered to win a $1,000 diamond pendant necklace courtesy of Crescent Jewelers in Frankfort. Those who didn’t win the necklace were then entered to win one of three designer handbags.

Proceeds from the sweet treat sales, $1,480, went directly to Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Project Re:Cycle repairs discarded or unused bicycles and donates them back to the community. They repair and distribute bikes to children learning to ride for the first time, youth and teens needing a way to get around town and even adults who need a means of transportation.

Project Re:Cycle currently has upward of 550 bicycles that need repairing at their location on U.S. Route 45-52 South in Kankakee.

Project Re:Cycle officially became a nonprofit in 2012, but the organization was started in the late 1950s by the late Francis “Foo” Chamness. When Chamness passed away in 2011, his four grandchildren wanted to continue the project.

“I spent the summer with my grandfather fixing bikes,” Mike Hernandez said. “After he died, we wanted to continue his legacy.”

And the legacy did continue as Scott Seaton now serves as director.

“I’m honored to be with all the organizations here tonight,” said Seaton, who was wearing a lapel pin “ESHAB” – Everyone Should Have A Bike.

“Remember the first two wheeler you ever had. The freedom, the wind in your face. It was the greatest day of your life,” Seaton said. “Every kid should have a bike.”

During Purse Palooza, Tern of the Wheel and Project Re:Cycle had a special silent auction basket and a bike with proceeds going to Project Re:Cycle.

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