Wiscasset pageant entrant pursues purse project

Posted:  Friday, March 17, 2017 - 5:00pm

Wiscasset’s Heather Demeny, Mrs. Midcoast Maine International 2017, has turned her domestic violence awareness platform into a cause she plans to keep up long after the Sunday, March 26 state pageant at Crooker Theater in Brunswick.

Demeny, last year’s Mrs. Wiscasset Maine America, wanted to support her latest platform with a project that would help women in crisis. A former visitation supervisor for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Demeny said a lot of the mothers she met in her job were in that situation due to drug abuse, but many of those same women had also been impacted by domestic violence.

So when she saw a project online that was giving domestic violence survivors purses containing personal supplies, she knew she’d found her inspiration.

To help round up purses, she put out word on Facebook. “And so many people were really passionate, and were right on board with it. So that made me feel fantastic.” In two weeks, she collected 32 purses and enough toothpaste, feminine products and other supplies to fill them.

The project concluded and Demeny met recently with one of its organizers at One Less Worry in Rockland. She left there encouraged and determined to keep the momentum going with a project of her own, to collect purses for shelters or other midcoast and southern Maine agencies serving women in crisis. “A lot of times women literally leave home in the middle of the night with the clothes on their back and their kids, and that’s it,” she said.

Interviewed March 15, Demeny, 38, was still thinking of a name for her effort, but had collected some of the first purses she plans to distribute under it. “It’s something that I’m definitely going to continue, because it’s so near and dear to my heart, and because so many people want to help. It’s something they feel like they can really make a difference about.”

At Wiscasset Community Center where Demeny and her family are members, she has a box behind the counter for donations of new or gently used purses or unopened personal supplies to put in them. She has set no end date for the collection.

Last year’s pageant work was a family effort, and so is this year’s. All her children and her husband Ryan Denemy volunteered with her at WCC’s recent indoor carnival; since September, her sons have been working out with her at WCC; and daughter Olivia accompanied her to a Portland press conference in February for Go Red Day. The two learned about the signs of heart disease in women and met a woman who is a heart surgeon. “(The event) was very empowering for women.”

According to the Facebook page Mrs Maine International, a New England Patriots cheerleader and mascot Pat Patriot will be at the state pageant. Demeny and the rest of the family are Patriots fans. Asked if last year’s pageant gave her experience that will help, she said she learned that for all the months of planning, practice and other prep, once you’re on stage, the experience is a whirlwind.

She likes her chances for a win. “This is a really platform-based pageant. And I’ve put a lot of time and effort into my platform.” Whatever the outcome, Demeny has been glad to be in two pageants she said are all about family.

She has no plans for another run, however. “It’s pretty exhausting,” said Demeny, who is studying at Northeast Technical Institute in Scarborough to become a medical assistant.

For more on the purse drive, email Demeny at hlemair@yahoo.com.