Handbags for Hope is happening for the fifth year in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The program, which was started by Jane Wood, will be running a little differently in light of COVID-19 protocols this year.
Most notably, she will be looking to get the items for women in need earlier than usual as a precaution. The deadline is now Dec. 4.
“We have an earlier cut-off date, so we can kind of let everything sit for a week,” Wood says.
Through Handbags for Hope, women in need with whom the Comox Valley Transition Society works receive handbags with essential supplies like shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, and other toiletries, along with treats like chocolate or candy and practical items like pens or notebooks. Wood says some years, a knitting group also makes hats or gloves for the bags.
Wood started the project in conjunction with the Transition Society, with the items being distributed at a seasonal lunch the society holds for the women.
“The Transition Society and I have kind of just become partners,” Wood says.
This year, the lunch cannot go ahead, but they will still be handing out the bags through other means, such as directly through homes for women, counsellors, or the Care-A-Van. Items not given out at Christmas are distributed later through the year.
Wood came to the Comox Valley from Australia and had heard of a similar project there, so even though she did not know that many people in the community when she started, she decided it could work.
“I thought maybe I could do something like that here,” she says. “I had to Google women’s shelters and I found the Transition Society…. I went and had a meeting with them the first year.”
As far as what items are needed, Wood says they’re doing well when it comes toothpaste and toothbrushes. However, they are often short of other items – such as full-size shampoo, conditioner, hairbrushes, body wash and nice, little gift items to put in the bag. She wants to stress that people do not have to put a whole bag together to donate but instead can donate a lot of one item, such as shampoo, which is always in need.
“We always run short of certain things,” she says.
Other suggested items include hats, scarves, gloves, miscellaneous toiletries, hair ties, bobby pins, facial tissue, nail kits and blank Christmas cards with a stamp. People are also requested to include a ‘note of hope’ to the woman receiving the handbag.
Typically, they give out a few hundred bags to women each holiday season, and Wood adds they expect the need to be high this year.
“It’s probably needed more than ever because people have been financially strained this year,” she says.
To help out or donate items, people can contact Wood at 250-897-6712 or JaneWood1234@yahoo.com. They can bring items to the Transition Society at 625 England Ave., though the door is locked and people will need to wear a mask when dropping off items. Drop-off times are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. You can find out more through the Comox Valley Handbags for Hope Facebook page.