In The Bag Auction | History
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Helping Hands

A History of Volunteers

On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton and a group of close confidantes founded the American Red Cross in Washington, DC as a way to extend a helping hand through relief efforts following natural disasters and to assist military personnel and their families. From their simple desire, we are now part of an International Red Cross Red Crescent organization providing compassionate care and assistance for physical devastation or injury as well as the emotional impacts that arise at times of great need.


From such a humble start, the Red Cross forged a storied history of helping during great times of turmoil such as the wars the United States engaged in for the last 100 years, the economic lows of the Great Depression, and the unbelievable destruction from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Through its many, many efforts the Red Cross has built a strong organization today focused on U.S. disaster relief and community disaster education, health and safety services, support for military families, offering much-needed blood supplies, and coordinating with international agencies and governments.


The organization’s rich history of seeking volunteers with helping hands and full hearts was further extended with the formation, in 2006, of the Tiffany Circle. This group united generous and highly-involved women to continue to ensure the Red Cross could provide exceptional help to people through prevention, preparation and responsiveness to life’s emergencies for our local citizens.

The Inspiration Continues

Brenda Blisk, Founder and CEO of Blisk Financial Group (McLean, Virginia), knew immediately the Tiffany Circle was a great avenue through which she could further her interest and activity for assisting others in need. Brenda has helped or advised such organizations as the Fairfax Community Learning Centers Partnership, the Lombardi Cancer Center (Georgetown University Hospital) and several other local Washington, D.C. and Virginia charities for the armed services, families and seniors. Getting involved in the Tiffany Circle and the American Red Cross of the National Capital Region (ANC NCR) was a natural extension of her interest to be supportive of people with greater and more immediate need than she, her family or clients.


Brenda’s involvement with the Red Cross wasn’t just limited to giving of her own time, efforts and donations. She wanted to create a more broad-based platform through which to impact positively the lives of others. She shared the mission with her friends, clients, and business associates. It was with this intent that, in 2010, she launched “IN THE BAG: Purses for Preparedness.

So Much More Than An Auction

The annual IN THE BAG Luncheon and Silent Auction event is planned and staffed by a steering committee of local women leaders led by Brenda. These women volunteer their expertise to find sponsors, develop marketing, engage in traditional and online PR, and search out phenomenal bags from gracious donors. Hundreds of women gather each Fall for a great lunch, good conversation and the chance to nab a simply over-the-top gorgeous, trendy handbag from such designers as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Michael Kors, YSL, Prada and Jimmy Cho. As Brenda Blisk says, “Where else can you go for lunch, network, and have fun bidding on designer purses designer purses and give back to your community?”


While the first IN THE BAG event raised a modest amount, it has consistently increased its donation to the Red Cross in each of the years since 2010. At the event in 2018, there were 320 women in attendance and just under $180,000 was raised. These funds, as in other years, were donated to the American Red Cross to support families when fire, flooding or when unforeseen circumstances hit.


This is an opportunity to support the communities of the National Capital Region and especially those who are in extremely dire circumstances. It’s a chance to meet other highly motivated, successful business women and to have fun while you’re at it! IN THE BAG is an event you can, quite literally, walk in feeling and looking one way, and having yourself and your business totally transformed by the time you walk out.

We welcome you to join this inspiring community and encourage you to help spread the word about this fun, unique event!