Suburban mom packages donated items for women at shelters in 'Love Purses'

Beyond Valentine’s Day, a southwest suburban mom has made it her mission to spread love all year round. Now her project is being duplicated around the world.  

"It's just been this incredible ride. I have sororities doing it. I have the Chicago Police Department and the clerk of the circuit court, I mean everybody has been so extremely kind," said Love Purse founder Maria Castro of Riverside.  

Castro is making sure women feel supported, and she’s doing it by putting a purse on their shoulder.  

The project began in 2021, when a friend associated with a local women’s shelter asked Castro to tap into her network of friends for hygiene donations. The pandemic had made it difficult for the shelter to provide individualized containers of certain items. As Castro was packaging the items in plastic bags, she realized she wanted to provide a gift with dignity.


"Now they have something again to call their own, that they don't have to share with anybody, that they can really take pride in," she said.  

Castro packaged the donated items like shampoo and conditioner in purses, along with a handwritten note.  

"Just letting them know you matter, this too shall pass, you're beautiful, you're loved," explained Castro.  

The now international project has spread from the southwest suburb of Riverside to Mexico, Canada and Ukraine. Castro included the sale of a "Resilient Red" lipstick as part of a fundraising campaign. There are plans to expand the gifts to women undergoing cancer treatment and mothers who have lost a child to Chicago gun violence.   

"It's evolving into something so different and yet so beautiful, because no matter what, that purse is going to be filled with love," said Castro.  

If you’d like to host a purse stuffing party or make a donation to the organization, you can by logging onto