Full-time student and mother, Crystal Hunter and her eight year old daughter, MaryLynn, have been hard at work collecting purses and filling them with essential goods to donate to local homeless women in Patterson.
The purses, which are donated, are filled with essential items such as personal hygiene products and non-perishable foods. The mother and daughter duo, who hail from the Bay Area, have been driving to Patterson every weekend to drop off the purses to locations like Naomi's House and South Salado park in downtown El Circulo.
“So here’s the background of it,” said Hunter. “My daughter and I live in the Bay Area, and my mother recently passed away in August on her birthday. When [my mother] passed, we had no family left, but me and my brother [who lives in Patterson] got real close, and prior to my mother’s death we didn’t have a relationship.”
Hunter said she and her daughter, MaryLynn, spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with her brother in Patterson. During the winter break, she noticed her sister-in-law cleaning out her closet and going through purses.
“I thought, these are cute,” said Hunter. “I saw a post somewhere about filling up purses for homeless women and my daughter just lit up and was like, ‘Mommy can we do that?’ I said of course we can baby! So I looked online to see what could be helpful to include in the purses and what type of stuff we could steer away from, but what really got me was my daughter, she handed me her allowance money so we could go out and buy personal hygiene items and non-perishables.”
Crystal and MaryLynn have a personal connection with giving back to the homeless community, as they themselves once experienced homelessness.
“We have knowledge on being homeless because at one point we were homeless for a year and a half, so I asked my daughter, what would have made you feel better about yourself when we were homeless, baby? And that's what we picked up. [Apart from personal hygiene items] little candies, chips, sunflower seeds and granola bars, and my daughter was buying little nail polishes to put in the bags because she said, ‘Mom that makes me feel good about myself.’ So that's what we did.”
Hunter included personal motivation quotes that she hand wrote on paper and MaryLynn colored. Quotes like: “This is not the end of your story, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” and “Every moment is a fresh beginning! Don’t be scared of change and never lose hope.” made their way into the bags to be helpful reminders that better days may indeed be ahead of the dire straits certain homeless women may be enduring.
“We were at Wal-Mart recently and a lady in the parking lot stopped us and she was actually wearing the purse and my daughter thought it was the coolest thing in the entire world, just that she was actually using it. She came up to my daughter and thanked her,” said Hunter.
Hunter said that eventually she and MaryLynn would like to include gift cards for fast food restaurants so that they can be used to purchase warm meals and recently made a post on Facebook about her daughter's accomplishments, and since, she has been receiving inquiries for donations.
“I made a post on Facebook because it was a very proud moment for me about my daughter. Typical kids think about themselves, and [MaryLynn] is eight. I was just really blown away because this is what she really wanted to do,” said Hunter. “I wasn’t looking for donations. I was just sharing a proud moment of my child, she just lost her grandma and [look what she’s doing.] After the post I started getting messages from people wanting to donate purses and people wanted to chip in and now we currently have about fifty purses ready to hand out.”
Hunter says that they plan to name their charity after her mother, and MaryLynn’s grandmother, Debbie.
“My mom was giving. She would do anything for anyone. So in memory of my mom we want to [name our charity after her,] and make t-shirts to help my daughter get some closure on her death, because it was unexpected.”
Crystal and MaryLynn Hunter are planning to move to Patterson so that she can be closer with her brother, and MaryLynn to her cousins. They make the trek down to Patterson every weekend to donate purses and ask anyone who would like to donate to please contact: Michellehunter62211@gmail.com