by Melissa Josue

Some women, when diagnosed with breast cancer, decide to travel the world on a grand adventure. Alexandra Alznauer took time off to renovate her apartment and started volunteering. My aunt Carlotta began a yearly pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. But the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund’s clients, many without health insurance or too ill to work, struggle to travel across town to their chemo appointments.

This Friday, Tango Divas and accessory fanatics alike can feel good about adding another beautiful bag to their collection and at the same time help lessen the financial toll for low-income breast cancer patients…one purse at a time.

When mortality looked Alexandra Alznauer in the eye last year when she was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer, she glared right back and decided that after her lumpectomy, she wanted to do something to help and work directly with breast cancer patients. She began with stuffing envelopes for the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (BCEF), a community-based organization that provides short-term emergency financial assistance to help low-income San Franciscans battling breast cancer make ends meet.

“The average low-income client that comes to us has exhausted her savings,” Ms. Alznauer explained, adding that over half of BCEF clients have no form of health insurance. And as the only organization that provides emergency funds for low-income breast cancer patients in San Francisco, BCEF is expecting a fifty percent increase in people seeking help over the course of next year. “Most of our clients are diagnosed in later stages [of breast cancer],” she said. “The need [for emergency funds] is growing.”

After a year of working with BCEF, Alznauer, now cancer free, has turned her volunteerism into a full-time passion to help fundraise for local breast cancer awareness. As a member of BCEF’s steering committee, Ms. Alznauer is helping to gather the support of local fashion designers and celebrities to donate their handbags to this year’s This Old Bag: The Power of the Purse, benefiting BCEF.

This event will be the first of its kind in the Bay Area, featuring handbags from an A-list of celebrity donors, including Reese Witherspoon, Sharon Osborne, Patti LaBelle, Sharon Stone, Minnie Driver, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, and Jennifer Aniston to name just a few. And of course, Prada, Versace, Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, among scores of other designer and retailer handbags, will be up for the silent and live auction. Even the original Cosmo girl, Helen Gurly Brown, tucked a photo and a handwritten note into the handbag she contributed. This Old Bag promises to be a buffet of accessories, including everything from designer baby bags for the mommy on-the-go to dazzling dinner clutches, matching coin purses, and handbags in every shape, size, and season, from funky to formal and everything in between.

Perhaps most exciting are the custom-made purses from local artists. Modnik by Jude Gabbard, as well as Sara K. Neal from Annabella in North Beach are among a number of artists who’ve designed a bag specifically for BCEF’s event. Sara K. Neal, who opened Annabella a year ago and whose aunt is a survivor of breast cancer, found This Old Bag a perfect opportunity for her to do one of her favorite things—designing handbags—for a good cause. She says her handmade chenille tapestry fabric purse with the faux-pearl handle is versatile enough to be a pretty pair with an opera gown or even your favorite jeans!

You can help Tango Diva support breast cancer awareness by visiting to find out more about This Old Bag and check out other fundraising events BCEF has planned this year. There is no cure for cancer, but every effort to empower those in the struggle brings us one step closer to fighting this disease.

This Old Bag: The Power of the Purse

Friday, October 7, 2005

6:00–9:00 p.m.


495 Geary Street, San Francisco

Tickets are $100 per person.

For more information, please visit

or call 415.558.6999, extension 3.