SAFETY HARBOR — On her left wrist, Kathy Lengyel held the power to raise the self-esteem of a poor little Nicaraguan girl.
It was a small, red, handmade cotton purse destined for a starving orphan in the impoverished country.
Lengyel, president of a Dunedin-based online designer handbag company called Significant Journey, joined with business partner Peggy Smith and Harborside Christian Church member Susan Hartwick to make 250 of the purses.
The purses were packed by members of the church Saturday into shoeboxes, along with toiletries such as toothbrushes, small toys, and dried meals of spicy vegetables and other foods. Another 250 shoeboxes, minus the purses, will be sent for boys.
It was all part of the church's Christmas in July ministry outreach.
The boxes will be delivered in September to Brenda Rose, Harborside's missionary working in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, for distribution along with high-caloric food. Enough to feed 30,000 people, the food will be dished out immediately and the gifts will be handed out at Christmas.
"We are working with orphanages and (nutrition) centers helping kids who are near starvation,'' said Chad Ranson, Harborside's minister of missions. "They bring the children up to a healthy standard.''
Ranson was excited when Lengyel volunteered to make the purses.
"Every little girl wants a little self-worth,'' he said.
Lengyel and Smith know the bags are not essential to survival of the children who often don't have enough to eat, but she hopes they will help nourish the children's souls, even though they don't have much to put in them.
"We know a purse won't change their living conditions, but as women we know the joy of owning a beautiful purse,'' Lengyel wrote in a e-mail to the Times. "It will help give the little girls a positive image of themselves."
She said a pink card engraved with inspirational Scripture written in Spanish is tucked into each bag.
According to Smith, vice president of Significant Journey, "The message is to remind them that God loves them and that he is there for them always."
Handbags have always meant more than just a fashion statement to Lengyel, whose mother taught her to sew when she was 10.
By the time she was a teen, she was making her own clothes. In college, she studied interior design and visual communication arts, and after graduation, she worked in graphic design while building her own portfolio.
Now 50, she is the creative director for a marketing firm in Tampa.
When she created Significant Journey, she set out to make high-quality bags using Ultrasuede and microsuede polyester or durable canvas with intricate embroidery and some with applique.
According to Lengyel's Web site, "every significant journey bag tells a story. The story behind each bag has significant meaning to every woman while benefiting a charity.''
She is offering the reversible purses designed for the children of Nicaragua for sale on her Web site, with $2 from every sale benefiting a feeding center in the country.
Lengyel hopes the purses bound for Nicaragua will make the recipients feel like princesses.
"Every little girl wants to feel pretty,'' she said.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.