Honoring Women in Transition
Some may call it coincidence, and some may call it destiny, but 5 years ago I had the honor of meeting a woman whose personal story would forever change the way I looked at my life, my belongings, and homeless women. While I was in the hospital, my roommate there was dealing with the effects of mouth cancer. Doctors had removed most of her teeth as well as her tongue, and after a grueling 15-hour surgery, they successfully created a new tongue from skin and muscle from her forearm and thigh: truly a medical feat. That surgery and subsequent treatment was intended to prepare her to resume her normal life.
Luckily, I was able to go home: back to my family, my friends, my established life, and my job. My new friend could not go home, because her residence was the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre. Due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she was left with no immunity, weighed only 80 pounds, was unable to eat solid foods, and she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I wanted to help, and I knew others would too.
After hearing about her story, my cousin, Betty, and other members of my family, along with friends and Decca Design’s amazing architectural and product reps, worked together to furnish an apartment for my new friend provided by the Drop-In Centre. We sent my friend out of the apartment for a time, and then had an emotional “reveal” after the last dish was placed in the cupboard, and the final hot pink, accent pillow fluffed and placed on her new bed.
But, there was still something missing: something felt unfinished. We had played a small part in helping ONE woman: what about the others in transition? One thing I had learned about being homeless from my new friend was the “stigma of the backpack”. I am able to go freely into stores and restaurants never being asked if my large purse can be checked or inspected. My friend isn’t treated the same way nor are other homeless women. Their backpacks are most often removed, searched, and tagged as inspected.
However, a woman’s purse is not inspected. So, the idea was born of collecting gently-used purses, filling them with necessities as well as some extras (see list below), and distributing them through reputable agencies that serve the population of women transitioning from the street to secure housing, thereby providing them a second chance.
Five years later, I am happy to relay that my friend is very much alive and still fighting her battle against cancer. She has gained healthy weight, has been seizure-free for one year, has recently been fitted with false teeth, and her sweet smile and sense of humour remain intact.
I don’t believe it was coincidence that our paths crossed; I was given an opportunity to see life through new eyes, and at that moment, I knew that I could make a difference in her world, as she had in mine. And going forward, we could make a difference in the lives of other women in transition.
Friends, family (and once again, our amazing reps), neighbors, friends of friends, book club members, art club members, and many people that we have never personally met have joined my cousin Betty, myself, and the Decca Design team to hand-deliver 621 purses over 4 years to women in transitioning from the street to secured housing. Purses stuffed with essentials, filled with love, and best of all: HOPE.
Please accept our sincere gratitude for your contribution,
Judy Anderson and Betty Wasyluk
(Co-Founders Purses of Hope)
Decca Design works with transitioning women through Community Coordinators and Social Workers from the following agencies:
“I was really touched by the gift I received at Christmas time from somebody I did not know. I loved the gift and there were so many things inside I could use right away. I was touched that the person putting together the contents went as far as placing bus tickets and a Walmart gift card in the side pocket. What a surprise! The purse itself is so big and nice and will really help me to use it for various reasons. I really needed a big purse and need to carry a lot of things with me. All my small purses – even if I liked them – had to go…so what a good replacement. The other thing is that it is very hard for me to go shopping so this really brought a sparkle to me over the Christmas season – something I can really use! Once again, THANK YOU!”
To contribute to Purses of Hope, bring a gently used purse to our office or Swintons and fill it with items from the list below:
Cash donations are accepted.
Please stop by our office at 626 – 35 Ave. NE or E-transfer money to email@example.com
NOTE: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss have been graciously donated by Riverside Dental.