Winnipeg women pack purses full of hope for those in need

Three Winnipeg women — with the help of 800 supporters on Facebook — are reaching out to women struggling on the city's streets by packing purses with feminine hygiene products, jewelry and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

Nearly 250 purses with women's essentials donated to Agape Table following Facebook drive

Brandi Neves (left), Sherry Selley and Sherry Turner (right) started Purses of Hope and expected their friends would participate. They were excited to receive nearly 250 donations when the initiative gained momentum in Winnipeg, Selley said. (Photo supplied by Sherry Selley)

Three Winnipeg women — with the help of 800 supporters on Facebook — are reaching out to women struggling on the city's streets by packing purses with feminine hygiene products, jewelry and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

Purses of Hope started when friends Sherry Selley, Sherry Turner and Brandi Neves saw a picture of a purse on Facebook.

The post by someone in Texas encouraged people to fill purses with women's essentials and keep them in their cars, ready to hand out to those in need.

"So we thought, 'Well, hey. We can do a little better than that.… Why don't we get some moms together, have a couple bottles of wine, make some purses and donate them?" Selley said.

Purses were packed with items for Winnipeg's homeless girls and women before being donated to Agape Table. (Photo supplied by Sherry Selley)
The idea, which Selley said involved creating a Facebook page, attracted hundreds of people who made it clear they wanted to help.

"We started calling everyone on the page The Hope Squad," Selley said.

Other than putting the word out on social media, the women didn't plan much, never expecting the initiative would expand beyond their circle of friends.

In the end, they collected nearly 250 purses.

"We didn't really have drop-off points or anything; we just weren't set up. So some people dropped off at our personal homes," Selley said.

The women hosted an evening of cake, coffee and conversation on Nov. 13 in a room that was donated at Glenwood Community Centre to thank everyone for their help.

"It was great to meet these women face-to-face," Selley said. 

"One … had said to me, 'You know what, I feel horrible saying this, but if you had just messaged me and said, 'Hey, can you donate toothpaste? Or can you donate pads or tampons?' She's like, 'Not that I wouldn't have wanted to, but it probably would have gone on my to-do list. But this made it really personal for us and we could actually create a gift for somebody knowing that someone was going to get it.'"

Selley said she believes the personalization and room for creativity was the key to the initiative's success.

'Keep your chin up'

"These women just went above and beyond. We found brand new packs of panties in the purses. One lady had a tiny little ceramic jar with a pair of earrings inside of it. There were personal notes inside the purses telling the person, 'Someone's praying for you,' and, 'Keep your chin up,'" she said.

"People felt like they could really put their heart into what they were giving."

Dave Cunnin, executive director of Winnipeg's Agape Table, was at the gathering to accept the donations.

Although they were the catalyst for it, Selley, Turner and Neves do not want the credit for Purses of Hope. At one point, the trio posted to the Facebook page to thank the person in Texas for posting the picture of the purse that gave them idea.

Overall, though, the city-wide community is responsible, Selley said.

"It was absolutely the women of Winnipeg that made this happen."