Butte has done it again: turned out when folks needed it most.

At the inaugural Purse Strings fundraiser for Safe Space, Butte’s domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and awareness program, at least 150 local women attended Saturday morning to show their unwavering support.

“I am blown away,” said Vicki Blackketter, brain child of the sparkling new  event. “I am overwhelmed by all the generosity.”

Scanning the room from one corner in the HPER gym, she was in awe of the large turnout of community leaders and Women of Tech members.

“What tugs on your heartstrings tugs on your purse strings,” she told the assembled women of all ages dressed to impress, checkbooks, champagne brunch in hand and eyeing their favorite purses on the bidding tables.

Here’s the rockin’ deal: Purple Purse, an Allstate Foundation initiative — matches 100 percent all proceeds raised at Purse Strings — in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October).

“This is a way to take it up a notch for Safe Space,” said Blackketter, wife of Tech Chancellor Don Blackketter.

I was struck by how many purses of all shapes, sizes and styles lined the tables for the live and silent auctions. Each bag was stuffed with coveted eye-catching gifts, from cosmetics, wine, coffee, Montana Tech souvenirs, gift certificates — you name it.

Before expenses, organizers raised nearly $8,000 in auction, said Maggie Peterson, Tech vice chancellor of administration and finance. On raffle tickets alone, the advisory committee raised $700. Additional donations continue to flow in.

Pam Haxby-Cote, Butte Local Development Corporation director, mingled selling raffle tickets.

“I’m never surprised with the generosity of Butte people,” said Haxby-Cote. “We take care of one another. That’s what we do. Kudos to those who organized it.”

Folks from Dillon and Anaconda heard of the classy fundraiser through the grapevine — and perked their ears for future Purse Strings.

Ruth Morrow, a Butte realtor who plans to volunteer at Safe Space, called Purse Strings “kind of fun” and “totally amazing.”

“It’s something we need,” Morrow added. “I’ve been around domestic abuse in the past.”

Aiming to be a foster parent, Morrow knows that abused women who seek help at Safe Space need help with their children.

Even the Montana Tech hockey club players roamed the room, displaying bid items. Carrie Vath, auctioneer and Tech director of student success, dubbed them the male Vanna Whites.

“We pretty much do what we can to help out,” said Colin Russell, a forward who transferred from Calgary this semester.

For sure, Vicki Blackketter and her advisory board know how to pull strings — and the right ones.

“It’s a town-and-gown kind of thing, in which everybody worked together to make it happen,” added Blackketter.

It’s becoming a habit — a good one.

Butte-toberfest rolls with the punches

Another high-profile fundraiser, the 7th annual Butte-toberfest, took to the Original Mine stage for the first time on Saturday.

Everyone had to contend with wet, chilly weather. But in typical Butte fashion, everyone rolled with the punches, said organizer Cassie Wick.

“We were up against the weather and a venue change,” she said. “But it felt really good up there. It was really easy and it flowed – it was fun.”

Butte-toberfest raised funds for Silver Bow Developmental Disabilities Council to buy a food truck for its transitional home clients.

Wick, an independent living specialist with the Montana Independent Living Project, is always on the lookout for job training possibilities for her clients.

“We want to buy a food truck to go with our kitchen, now certified to be used as a prep kitchen,” Wick added. “We want to teach (clients) to do food prep in the kitchen, then offer a different spread of food and get them some work experience. We’ll also rent out the food truck, too, as a gateway for other people to try their business.”

A food truck costs between $15,000 and $20,000. Despite the autumn chill, she said organizers “raised a substantial portion.”

“Last year we raised $14,000, but we have more expenses this year due to weather." At least 14 breweries from across the state, live music and cranked heaters warmed the chilliest souls. Best-dressed contests and stein races stole the spotlight.

All told, BSBDDC sold 1,170 commemorative beer mugs as about 1,300 folks hit the festival.

“It’s going to grow,” said Wick, optimistic for Butte-toberfest’s future — and by design, Butte’s future.

Unique UM Western celebrates twofold

Meanwhile, at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Chancellor Beth Weatherby, a slew of donors, professors and students celebrated two events:

Weatherby’s inauguration and the college’s 10th year anniversary of Experience One — an extremely popular, successful block scheduling of classes, the only one of its kind among all public four-year universities in the nation.

Sheila Stearns, former UM Western chancellor (1993-1999) and former Montana Commissioner of Higher Education, was in on both bookends of X One, when students take one class at a time for about four weeks.

“You couldn’t have dreamed this up as a chancellor,” Stearns told me. “It had to come from the roots – the faculty. The story here is to trust your faculty, their passion and their intelligence.”

Weatherby credits X One with boosting retention and graduation rates. I have a feeling UM Western will continue to celebrate for quite awhile.