A network of microphilanthropy that supports Middlebury students.

This project combines recycled military gear with refined leather accents to make handbags, totes, and messenger bags that are durable and fashionable, but most importantly charitable. A percentage of each sale will be donated to aid wounded veterans in their transition back into civilian life. MiddSTART funding will help me cover the costs of sewing and leather materials.

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Dollars Raised: 277%

Funding Details

Deadline: Sep 30, 2012
Total needed: $2,000


Emily Núñez '12, International Studies Carlisle, PA
Liza Winton '13, History of Art and Architecture Wayzata, MN
Lauren Kelly '13, English and American Literature Syracuse, NY



As an Army ROTC cadet studying in the bucolic setting of Middlebury, Vermont, I’ve often felt distant from the War on Terrorism and my future military service. When you hear fewer news stories about the conflicts our military is engaged in and far less about the men and women who bravely sacrifice their lives and limbs to support them, it is easy to become complacent in such a beautiful, stimulating, and supportive environment as college. I wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face. Most people use a bag of some form throughout his or her day. By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, we create sturdy and sophisticated bags, whose sale will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). In this way, our bags are rugged and refined, but most importantly, kind.

My inspiration for this idea began the summer after my sophomore year when I attended the US Army Airborne School in Ft. Benning, Georgia. There I spent six sweltering weeks learning how to properly jump out of an airplane, but what I remember most vividly are the stories my fellow paratroopers shared with me, many of whom had just weeks before returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They spoke of moments of bravery and extreme adrenaline, their families, friends, and girlfriends, and with time, they’d tell me about their friends who they lost in combat and those who were evacuated due to severe injury. Many of these wounded veterans face severe challenges as they transition into civilian life. These include PTSD, inadequate rehabilitation, and a very high risk of unemployment. My mission to is raise awareness of wounded veterans’ struggles and aid them as they adjust to civilian life by using the profits of these recycled bags to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The Rugged and Refined team applied for and was selected as a MiddChallenge winner so in addition to funding that will be used toward the cost of the first production run to establish inventory, we will be able to spend the coming months developing media and press awareness as well as marketing to those who support military families and seeking contracts with larger wholesale vendors.

We plan to use the project’s website: www.ruggedandrefinedbags.com, which will soon be public. There will be a blog section featured that can be used to communicate with donors.

2 Responses to “Rugged and Refined”

  1. Nick J says:

    Should sell at Tough Mudder

  2. Hunter thornal says:

    RTB or Rags to Bags

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