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East County Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019 2 years ago

Lakewood Ranch's Sisterhood for Good puts charity in the handbag

Designer Bag Bingo turns out to be a clutch hit for East County nonprofits.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

This purse business is serious.

Just ask Angela Massaro-Fain, who put together the Designer Bag Bingo fundraiser for Oct. 21 at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Lakewood Ranch.

It will raise money for Lakewood Ranch's Sisterhood for Good giving circle, which will redistribute the money to local nonprofits. The event sold out weeks in advance with almost 200 people paying for the chance to win one of nine designer purses by capturing a game of Bingo.

Women have been lined up, literally begging Massaro-Fain for a spot.

For some, it means the difference between carrying around a big box store bag and a designer masterpiece that introduces your presence with authority.

Think it's important?

"I once interviewed a girl for a job," explained Massaro-Fain, who is the former owner with her husband, John Fain, of Grapevine Communications. "She was wearing a Tiffany necklace, earrings and a bracelet, her hair and makeup were perfect, she had on expensive shoes, and she was caring a Louis Vuitton purse."

The purse was the absolute clincher.

"I hired her," Massaro-Fain said.

While image might not be everything, it certainly matters to many women who will pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for a designer purse which basically doubles as a plastic shopping bag. The outside is a fashion statement, while the inside could be sticky with a melted chocolate bar.

Four members of the Sisterhood for Good met at Massaro-Fain's Central Park home to discus their love of handbags. The also brought along one of their favorites to discus.

Terri Stern's husband, Ron, gave her this expensive Louis Vuitton bag after she survived her battle against cancer.

Terri Stern

"This is something special, especially how I got it," Stern said. "I always wanted a Louis Vuitton bag, but I didn't want to spend the money. Then 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with colon and thyroid cancer. After my last chemotherapy treatment, my husband, Ron, gave me a Louis Vuitton bag. It was a shock."

Terri Stern told her husband he was crazy because she knew he had spent $1,200. 

"He said, 'I think you have been through enough.'"

Stern said it is a classic bag and the design will be around for decades. She likes the size and the fact she can put a lot into it. The bag also has a lifetime guarantee in case anything happens to it.

"It was something I wanted, like some people want a Rolex."

Stern said she had paid $300 to $400 for other handbags and noted she has a "wall of bags" at home.

"I need all the different colors to match my different colored shoes. Mom always said to match your shoes to your bag."

She said the bags which will be awarded to the Bingo winners are diverse and unique. Personally, she doesn't like bulky bags, but she does like durability since they are expensive.

 While she can't tell what a woman is like just by looking at her handbag, she does say she can recognize a sense of style and she also notices when a handbag and its owner are mismatched.

"You see some people with bags and you think, 'Hmmmm.'"

Angela Massaro-Fain's grandmother gave her this handbag that Angela's dad, Carmine Massaro, brought back from the Korean War.

Angela Massaro-Fain

Massaro-Fain's father, Carmine Massaro, returned from the Korean War after his deployment with the Army in the early 1950s and brought a present, a purse, for his mom, Angela Zamarra. Eventually, that present was passed to Angela by her grandmother, who gave it to her in the 1980s.

"I've probably only have used it at four or five galas," Massaro-Fain said. "I know I should use it more, but it is such a delicate purse with hand stitching and bead work. It has a little silk change purse in it. There is a mirror and a compact and it has silk lining. Inside it was my father's lighter and two bracelets from Japan. I am saving it for (her daughter) Maria-Francesca (Massaro)."

Massaro-Fain said she loves the contrast of colors. the white against black and gold. She also like things tactile that she can feel, such as the beads and the hand embroidery, along with the velvet. She likes the size, perfect for a few items such as lipstick, a pen, business cards and money.

But she, too, has a wall of purses for all occasions.

"I have a BSwanky purse with skulls on it," she said. "It's cool and funky, yet sophisticated."

She has a Prada purse that costs more than $500 and her favorite once was one she picked up in Vallata, Italy in 1972. It was nine inches wide and it basically a cross body handbag. She loves her Italian heritage and she used that bag all through college and much of her young work life. She also fell in love with Fendi purses in 1972 and has maintained a collection ever since.

Graceann Frederico still has the bag her mother, Barbara Valente, carried at her wedding to Graceann's dad, Frank.

Graceann Frederico

Frederico brought a handbag, originally purchased in 1965, that was her late mother's. Her mother, Barbara Valente, carried it during her wedding to Frederico's father, Frank Valente, in Rochester, N.Y. When asked who made the purse, Frederico replied, "Let's look inside."

All she could find was "Hand made in Hong Kong."

She doesn't care it was a designer bag. "I am sentimental about things," she said. "This bag brings me happiness. I was born in 1968, so it is older than I am. I used it at my wedding in 1991. I just take it out for very special events."

Frederico said she does have a stash of purses in her closet, including a regular rotation of 12 purses.

"When I was 20, I was all about the trends, depending on what was in at the time. Now I am about practicality, and about looking my age."

She said bags with multiple pockets drive her crazy because she can't remember where she put things. On Bingo night, she is hoping for the Tory Burch handbag that is "practical but pretty" and that she said will never go out of style.

She dislikes heavy bags because, "once you put in your three pair of glasses, makeup, and your husband's keys, it weighs 20 pounds."

Roxanne Sima doesn't particularly like the Stone Mountain bag her mother, Helen Schaeffer, left her, but she keeps it for sentimental reasons.

Roxanne Sima

Putting her handbag in front of her, Sima admitted she really doesn't care for the style much and never takes it out. However, when her mother (Helen Schaeffer) died in 2001, her family was dividing up family keepsakes and Sima took the purse.

"It is a Stone Mountain bag, and it's the emotional attachment," she said. "She probably had it five years and I keep it just like it was. There are Rosary beads and pictures of my children."

Sima said she has about 20 handbags at home with about five in her regular rotation.

"If I get a new handbag, I stick with it a while. I like something that is not real heavy because I carry both a briefcase and a purse. I am concerned with my shoulder.

She currently has a purse she doesn't like and could soon find the scrap heap.

"I liked the way it looked, but it only has one compartment and I can't find anything."

She is hoping to yell "Bingo" when the Kate Spade and BSwanky purses are the prizes.

I have a purse now, Dooney & Bourke, that has been repurposed.

"It too big, and it wasn't cheap," she said. "So now I stick it on a shelf and keep all my wallets in it."



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