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updated: 10/1/2014 1:27 PM

WINGS, YWCA neck and neck in Purple Purse Challenge

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  • Rebecca Darr of WINGS, as she picks up the Community Leader of the Year award at the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce annual recognition dinner in late May.

      Rebecca Darr of WINGS, as she picks up the Community Leader of the Year award at the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce annual recognition dinner in late May.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

The Purple Purse Challenge is coming down to the wire for a pair of suburban agencies that both help victims of domestic violence.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the YWCA in Evanston was on top of the leader board, with $151,770 pledged, while WINGS, or Women in Need Growing Stronger based in Arlington Heights, is in second place with $136,382 pledged. The YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago is in fourth place, with $85,455. To donate, visit www.crowdrise.com/purplepursechallenge.

They are among nearly 140 national domestic violence organizations selected to participate in this year's challenge, launched in 2011 by the Allstate Foundation. Each group will keep the money it raises, but at stake are matching funds: Allstate will donate $100,000 to the organization that raises the most money. The second place agency gets $75,000.

The Challenge ends at 10:59 a.m. Central time, on Friday.

Allstate's mission, it says, is to break the cycle of violence, and jump-start fundraising for these organizations. The timing of its challenge is no coincidence -- it ends at the beginning of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Karen Singer, CEO of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore said the Purple Purse Challenge is a terrific opportunity for them to raise funds for the domestic violence program.

"We are raising funds from individuals as well as businesses and corporations," she said. "We have waged a very creative and thoughtful challenge, and we are remaining hopeful that we will continue to bring in funds and raise visibility around domestic violence."

Rebecca Darr, WINGS executive director, said momentum for WINGS is building, with several anonymous donations of $10,000, as well as growing corporate support.

"This campaign will help take WINGS to the next level -- and allow us to spread our wings," she said.

Last month, WINGS officials announced it received its largest corporate gift, a $250,000 donation from Verizon Midwest, based in Schaumburg. Funds were raised from Verizon's HopeLine initiative and were earmarked for WINGS' new shelter on Chicago's Southwest side.

"This is the first domestic shelter built in the city of Chicago in over a decade," Darr said. "It comes in response to the huge need to help women and children connect with services that will set them free from abuse."

While this is the first year that WINGS is participating, YWCA facilities across the country have been involved since the beginning.

The mission of local YWCA centers is to eliminate racism and empower women, especially those fleeing domestic abuse. The Evanston facility, which serves 800 women and children from throughout the North Shore, is one of 27 YWCA centers selected.

"Recent events have spurred many people to more closely examine domestic violence and to ask how they can be part of the solution," says Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA USA. "We encourage them to join us, along with our fellow service providers and advocates, in our commitment to breaking the cycle of domestic violence."

WINGS officials said if they were to win the challenge, funds would be used for program expansion, both in the opening of the WINGS Metro shelter in the Chicago and with additional space at the 45-bed Safe House in Rolling Meadows.

Darr said the additional funding will also fund its community-based programs of counseling, community education and advocacy for women not needing shelter.

"Calls to our 24-hour hotline have increased 25 percent since the Ray Rice video hit the news," Darr added, "meaning the discussion around domestic violence -- and what can be done to put an end to it -- has never been more important."

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