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Celebrity chef donates her much-loved collection to our Age NI appeal

By Claire McNeilly

A celebrity chef and Belfast Cookery School tutor has donated more than 15 handbags worth almost £2,000 to Age NI following the Belfast Telegraph's Feel The Benefit campaign.

Rozanne Stevens, an author and food journalist, decided to give them to charity after reading older people's stories of hardship in this newspaper.

The 35-year-old native South African businesswoman’s collection — comprising a mixture of designer handbags and those with sentimental value — can be purchased from Age NI’s own eBay shop.

Her donation follows last month’s awareness initiative that aimed to help older people apply for the benefits to which they are legitimately entitled after it emerged that £200m goes unclaimed every year.

Annual benefits worth more than £147,000 have so far been identified — which is money that would otherwise have been lost to those in need.

Age NI marketing director Siobhan Casey praised Rozanne for her generosity.

“After speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Rozanne offered to donate her collection of designer handbags, as well as some clothing, to our eBay shop to support fundraising efforts for our advice service,” she said.

“Rozanne has given us some wonderful pre-loved designer handbags and also leather coats which we hope will generate excellent eBay sales so that Age NI can continue to deliver vital services for older people in Northern Ireland.

“We'll be stocking our eBay store next week with Rozanne's designer goods so people will be able to go online and start bidding,” Siobhan added.

Around 500 people die each year in Northern Ireland from cold-related illnesses and pensioner poverty.

Rozanne said she hoped her handbags would help Age NI’s fundraising endeavours.

“Handbags have always played a special role in my life, but it’s time to say goodbye to some of them,” she said.

“If they can now help Age NI improve the lives of older people, then that’s even better!”

... and the memories contained within

1 Debenhams. Cost £70. “This beige handbag takes me back to a toyboy boyfriend who used to bombard me with long, drively poetry. It also reminds me how much rubbish can fit into one handbag.”

2 Fiorelli. Cost £30. “This came from TK-Maxx. I had split up with my boyfriend Geoff and I bought it to cheer myself up.”

3 Monsoon. Cost £70. “I bought this for going to the Galway Races for the first time. The Celtic Tiger was at its height and it reminds me of of drinking Champagne all day long.”

4 Handmade. Cost £120. “This feathery handbag was a birthday present from my gay best friend Barry, who is an interior designer and a very keen cook. He used to help me with a lot of the cookery classes I teach and he taught me a lot about the workings of the male mind.”

5 Singapore silk bag. Cost £40. “One of my best friend’s Ailish gave me this after a trip home. It’s lime green, my favourite colour.”

6 Spanish designer. Cost £200. “My ex-boyfriend Michael Buckley bought me this. He’s a well-known Irish jazz musician whose older brother Ritchie is Van Morrison’s saxophone player. We were set up by mutual friends and he treated me like a princess, but I became a jazz widow. I ended up going to gigs and listening to him play all night. We were together for two years. He’s wonderful, we just weren’t destined to be together.”

7 Singapore silk evening clutch. Cost £40. “This also came from Ailish. It makes me think of friendship.”

8 Designer handbag. Cost £400. “I met Michael when I was 25 and he was 47. He was a Cork businessman, with a playboy mansion and a Ferrari and I think he was going through a mid-life crisis. We ended up staying together for five years. He was the love of my life. It took me another five years to get over him. The bag is symbolic of the relationship because it was very beautiful, very expensive, very good quality, but it was actually too old for me in the end.”

9 Monsoon. Cost £40. “I bought this gold evening bag to go to Ailish’s three-day wedding to Gerry.”

10 Orla Kiely. Cost £200. “This reminds me of a time when I didn’t earn very much, but I still pushed the boat out for a special handbag.”

11 Roxy. Cost £50. “This is the oldest bag. I was 21 and going out with a 33-year-old guy called Greg. He was tall, blond and a champion surfer but I left him for someone who had been stalking me for some time (it didn’t work out with the stalker).”

12 Ralph Lauren. Cost £300. “My ex-fiancé David (32) dragged me from South Africa to Ireland in 1999. We got engaged when I was 21, after only knowing each other for six months. He bought this bag for me in America, which was a miracle considering how tight he was with money. However, for our very first Christmas together he gave me a beige bathrobe — so he had to go.”

13 Penneys. Cost £5. “This cerise pink and black lace clutch isn’t worth a lot but it reminds me of good nights out in Dublin.”

14 Orla Kiely. Cost £200. “This brown leather handbag is my self-sufficiency statement piece. I bought it when I landed my first job. It was a time when I had few responsibilities. It has travelled back and forth from South Africa with me.”

15 Guess. Cost £200. “I swapped a pair of Chloe shoes that didn’t fit for this silver handbag that belonged to my housemate. Unfortunately she turned out to be a psycho... so I moved out fairly quickly afterwards.”

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