Princess and the Purse low on magic this holiday season

Princess and the Purse tries to give low-income women a bit of holiday cheer through beauty products and toiletries, but organizers say donations are down this year, and demand is up.

'If I would have opened up this purse when I was 30 years old, I would have cried'

Princess and the Purse gives low-income women new bags filled with beauty supplies and treats so they'll have something special during the holiday season. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Princess and the Purse hopes to give low-income women a bit of holiday cheer through beauty products and toiletries, but organizers say donations are down this year, and demand is up.

Lorraine Cormier started the group last year, handing out 600 purses full of goodies to women across greater Moncton.

"In those purses, we ask people to put things that we take for granted that we have in the bottom of our purse, that a mother or lady would not waste the money on because of her restricted budget," Cormier said.

She knows that things like lipstick and earrings aren't a matter of life and death, but they can brighten the day of a woman putting the needs of her family first.

"I was one of those women," Cormier said. "I was a single mother. I had four jobs. I did not have a very big income. It took everything just to make ends meet.

"I used to take samples out of the magazines at doctor's offices because I couldn't afford it. So I would take the samples out and I would use them as my makeup and my perfume."

Lorraine Cormier started Princess and the Purse last year because she knows from experience what it's like to work hard to provide for a family and have little left over for herself during the holidays. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
Times have changed for Cormier. She returned to school and is now an esthetician who owns her own business. She said the idea for Princess and the Purse hit her last year while at a training session in Spain.

"I sat on the bed and I kind of chuckled and realized I was one of the lucky ones that had made it to this point."

Her way of giving back is to round up volunteers, who pack purses with small treats for the women at Moncton Headstart, Crossroads for Women, Harvest House, YWCA and the Pregnancy Resource Centre.

Debby Warren, executive director of AIDS Moncton is hoping Cormier will add her group to the list of recipients.

"I think women who access our services would be very grateful."

One service AIDS Moncton operates is a needle exchange for people struggling with intravenous drug addiction. Of the 600 users of the service, 40 per cent are women, Warren said.

"Just to be able to give them the purse with the contents inside and all wrapped up all nice and pretty — I just think that it gives a little bit of sunshine at a very difficult time of year."

Cormier hopes to supply AIDS Moncton with purses, but she said donations are down this year.

Greater need

"I don't think we've even gotten halfway to where we were last year, but the demand is even higher."

Opening one of the purses in the lobby of her Dieppe salon, Cormier described the contents: "You can see shampoo, there's gloves, hair spray, nail polish, body creams, and look, even a chocolate bar."

"If I would have opened up this purse when I was 30 years old, I would have cried."

Lorraine Cormier hopes the community will bring in more gently used bags, toiletries and beauty products to brighten up the holidays for women who can use something just for themselves. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
Cormier feels goodwill toward her group but knows there are a lot of charities doing important work. She also knows it can be hard to find time to follow through on good intentions. \

One way or another, however, she'll find the resources to fill all her orders.

"I just know the effect this is going to have on that woman when she opens it and she knows it's all about her."

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.