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Purse of love carries essentials, inspiration to women in need | Latin American Voices Chicago News


For many women, a purse is more than a place where they carry a purse and keys – it is a lifeline.

“I think we all know that the minute we walk out the door, we take the wallet, right? And in this purse there can be anything from photos of your children, maybe a trinket they gave you, a rosary, ”said Maria Castro, the founder Love the wallet. “And so when you sometimes have to leave in the middle of the night because of danger and you just run out, you have nothing. How do you collect the pieces? How do you get back the bag that meant so much to you? ”

A little over a year ago, a conversation with a friend sent Castro on an errand that grew into a movement. Castro recalled his conversation with longtime girlfriend Nelly Vazquez-Rowland. Vazquez-Rowland became a co-founder Safe harbor in Chicago, a social enterprise that helps eliminate the root causes of poverty and homelessness through housing, mental health, and employment training.

“During the pandemic, we talked to her about how things were going and what was going on, and she told me that they had problems getting toiletries that women could have separately because they could no longer share. So she was in some confusion and said, you know, let’s find out, ”Castro said.

Castro’s decision was simple – to quickly deliver things to a safe place, she just went out and bought toiletries herself. Sitting in her living room surrounded by bags full of shampoo and toothpaste, she says the inspiration has come.

“I thought I couldn’t give a woman a plastic bag filled with these toiletries. How insensitive would that be? So I decided to switch to Amazon and scored “wallets for less than $ 20” because I had already spent all my money on toiletries, ”Castro said. “And then I was amazed, why don’t I write a little note? So I wrote a note of inspiration, put one in each of my wallets, and then it just lit me up – it’s filled with such great love from me to whoever gets it. It’s a love purse! ”

The pandemic sparked an idea for local resident Maria Castro. She has found a way to meet the daily needs – plus a share of inspiration – of women in need. (WTTW News)

She brought the idea to Vazquez-Rowland, who says she responded with incredible enthusiasm.

“I immediately hugged it and liked it! The women who are here in A Safe Haven are here for a variety of reasons, some because of job losses, some because of domestic violence, some coming out of jail, even some women who are military are here. ” said Vazquez-Rowland. “The smiles on their faces when they got a purse filled with all these weird essentials, I think, really lives up to its name – I mean, it’s love, right?”

Then Castro realized that donating purses filled not only with essentials but also a small amount of encouragement is a mission that can be accomplished by anyone who wants to help women in need.

“I posted it on social media, and that’s how the gateways opened,” she said. “People called me and said, ‘My God, that’s great.’ It really became something that everyone could do so easily, and it wasn’t that expensive. ”

Soon the idea spread across the country and even around the world. Castro volunteers call “angel ambassadors” Wallet Castro organizes parties full of wallets and delivers them to social services in their neighborhoods. Locally, Love Purse collaborates with agencies such as Metropolitan family services and Magdalene House in Chicago, a program to restore housing for victims of human trafficking. CEO Ida Butler says that for women who are recovering from injuries, wallets make special sense.

“We provide them with a home, we provide the services they need to function, and that may be something they haven’t had in years, maybe or never,” Butler said. “Something personal, something of theirs, unique and special to them because they are unique and special people.”

CEO Ida Butler says that for women who are recovering from injuries, wallets make special sense.  (WTTW News)CEO Ida Butler says that for women who are recovering from injuries, wallets make special sense. (WTTW News)

After a year and 6,000 donated wallets, Castro says the flow of help and encouragement that Wallet continues to receive fills her with a desire to continue the mission.

“I want to help as many women as possible. Obviously, there is a need, ”she said. “But at the same time, there is never a shortage of donations and people who want to help. It just proves to me that there is so much kindness and goodness. ”


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