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Actresses lend a hand(bag) to help Hospice kids

Every two years, something really exciting happens. No, I’m not referring to Congressional elections. I’m talking about an event that actually accomplishes something positive.

Yes, it’s time once again for Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care’s biennial “Handbags for Hospice” auction.

This year’s auction, which takes place Friday July 18 at Old North State Winery in Mount Airy, will benefit “KidsPath”, a program that offers support and counseling to young people who have lost a loved one, or who are under hospice care themselves.

And, this year, these special kids have five beautiful celebrities in their corner. Handbags and purses are being donated by “Mad Men” stars Elisabeth Moss and Jessica Paré, “Matlock” star Nancy Stafford, Anna Wood from “Deception” and “Reckless”, and Lee Meriwether from “Barnaby Jones” and “Batman”.

I first met Nancy Stafford at the Western Film Fair where she and I spoke about the passing of her “Matlock” costar Andy Griffith. Nancy has returned to North Carolina several times since then, including making personal appearances in Mt. Airy. It’s appropriate that she has donated a handbag to this year’s auction, which is being held in Andy’s hometown.

Speaking of hometowns, Anna Wood was born and reared in Surry County, and her Mom, Mary Beth works at the Woltz Hospice Home. Anna was a big hit in “Deception”, and now stars in the CBS crime drama “Reckless”.

I met the lovely Lee Meriwether back in 2010, when I was moderating a “Salute to TV Crime Fighters” for the Television Academy. I brought Lee up on stage to help honor her friend, Mike Connors who starred in “Mannix”. The former Miss America had played Catwoman to Adam West’s Batman, she was also a scientist in “The Time Tunnel”, and she portrayed Buddy Ebsen’s daughter-in-law on “Barnaby Jones”. The year after our Hollywood event, Lee happened to be shooting a movie in Winston-Salem, so she, and my wife Pam and I spent a wonderful evening together. During the course of our dinner conversation, Lee told Pam she needed to buy some underwear, so the next day, the two women went shopping for unmentionables. I was not invited to come along. And what kind of purse has Lee donated to this year’s auction? A leather one, of course. Catwoman wouldn’t have it any other way.

Earlier this year while making preparations for the auction, I called my friend Matt Weiner, the creative genius behind “Mad Men”.

“Mad Men” is set in the 1960’s, so I asked Matt if one of his actresses might consider donating a purse. His reply was immediate. “How soon do you need them?” he said. A few days later, not one, but two purses arrived at my doorstep. One was from Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on “Mad Men”, and the other came from Jessica Paré, who plays Jon Hamm’s wife Megan. Even better, the handbags were actually carried by Jessica and Elisabeth in several episodes of the EMMY award winning drama. The episode numbers are tagged on the purses, making them particularly valuable as collectibles.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to have these wonderful women donate handbags to our auction”, said Denise Watson, Executive Director of Mtn. Valley Hospice. “The monies raised will help us continue to operate our KidsPath program, which will mean so much to children and their families”.

This year for the first time, proxy bidding will be allowed during the auction. Anyone wishing to bid on the celebrity purses and many other exciting items, can call Sheila Jones, Director of Marketing and Development, at (336)789-2922. Those who attend the auction in person will be treated to live music from “Rhythm”.

I encourage everyone to bid this year, either in person, or by phone, and help hospice do what they do best, improve quality of life for terminally ill patients and their families. !

For more information, visit www.mtnvalleyhospice.org

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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