For a mother and daughter in Thunder Bay, Ont. a simple Facebook post from a stranger in Texas was all that they needed to start an innovative project.
Project Purse was started by Faryn Gysen and her mom, Angela, who decided they would embark on a project to help women in northwestern Ontario who might be going through some tough times.
"So the idea in Texas was to just pack a little bag in your car and keep it there and if you see someone in need, you would hand it out to them," Gysen said, so then "I decided I wanted to take it further and see if it would work out in our own city of Thunder Bay."
Gysen said she wanted to expand the idea by filling up gently-used purses with essential items and distributing them to various organizations in the city that help women in need. She then created a Facebook group as a way to reach out to the community and spread the word.
"It was crazy, I created the group and the next day we had like 500 members," Gysen said.
8 priority items & more per purse
In the first year of Project Purse, Gysen said she collected "287 packed purses" with eight priority items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and feminine products.
In the second year, Gysen said she collected a total of 398 purses.
"I started it at my home and then we asked various places if they would be a drop off location for people that actually drop off the purses that they made," Gysen said.
Every purse donated includes eight priority items and everyone is encouraged to fill it up with anything else they think a women in need might need.
"One of the things that a lot of ladies have done in the purses is ... people put little notes of encouragement on every single item and it's really amazing to see how much effort people put in," Gysen said.
She said having posters and a drop-off bin at her school has also helped spread the word amongst her friends and peers as well.
"I'm hoping to make it even bigger this year," Gysen said, "I really want to try and get businesses involved because I like to put gift cards in the purses for the ladies so that they can buy a meal."
Purses are collected and assembled in February near Valentines Day and distributed around Easter as a "sign of hope for the women."