Purse Project Network hopes to collect 2,000 purses for women in need in Hamilton area

This year, the Purse Project Network is aiming to collect 2,000 purses for women in need in Hamilton and Halton. Submitted by The Purse Project Network

An annual campaign to provide care products for women in need has kicked off its seventh year.

The Purse Project Network is collecting new and ‘gently used’ purses filled with ten essential items that will be distributed through agencies that support women in Hamilton and Halton, including the Women’s Centre of Halton, the Elizabeth Fry Society, Interval House and Flamborough Women’s Centre, and Hamilton Out of the Cold.

The initiative began in 2016 but was taken over by Gayla Matos and Jill MacKellar in 2020 – right before the pandemic began.

“We didn’t know what to expect during COVID, with us taking it over, but by the fall, we were allowed to be together – socially distant, masked, the whole thing, so we were still able to run the campaign,” said Matos.

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That year, they collected 727 purses in Hamilton and Halton, and that grew to more than 1,600 last year along with the addition of a chapter in the Niagara Region.

“So COVID didn’t slow us down. It just kept growing.”

Overall, the campaign has managed to distribute more than 8,600 purses to women in need and this year, and the goal is to collect 2,000 more purses during the month of November.

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The ten items that organizers are requesting be in each purse include: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hand sanitizer, body or hand lotion, shampoo (or 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner), body wash (or bar soap with plastic holder), socks, hat or scarf, and mitts or gloves.

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Those who donate a purse can put in extra items on top of those essentials but MacKellar stressed that it’s important the purses are in good condition.

“While the contents of the purse are also very important … we just want the actual purse to just be something that enhances their dignity, enhances their self-image, makes them feel that they are really valued. And so we check every purse – every purse we receive, we empty, we go through it, we check that the zips work, that the handles aren’t tattered, that it’s clean inside and out.”

Submitted by the Purse Project

Something MacKellar added when she and Matos took over the campaign was to put homemade cards with a message of inspiration and encouragement in each purse, describing it as “the icing on the cake” and a personal touch that lets the woman who receives it know that they’re important.

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MacKellar got a chance to see the impact of their initiative in person when she was approached by a woman after giving a talk at a local church.

“She said the main thing was that somebody I don’t know thought of me and thought that I was worth having this.”

Hearing that made her feel “so touched,” MacKellar said.

“We work through the charities and wonderful organizations that really do most of the work, and they are the ones who work directly with the women, so we don’t actually see the recipients of the purses. And it was just so wonderful and so encouraging to hear that it seems to be working. It seems to be having the outcome that we want.”

The campaign will be collecting purses until Nov. 30.

A list of locations where they can be dropped off is posted on The Purse Project Network’s website, as well as their Facebook page.


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