The Silhouette: Please introduce yourselves. 

Hilary Menezes: My name is Hilary Menezes. I'm a third-year student at McMaster and I'm currently pursuing an English and cultural studies degree with a minor in political science and a certificate in leadership.  

Madison Menezes: I'm Madison and I'm in my second year of mechanical and biomedical engineering. 

Please elaborate on the Love Packs project. 

HM: Love Packs was started in the pandemic around Valentine's Day last year . . . We realized that there are a lot of people who are super generous and donate around Christmas time and holiday season. But, moving into the new year, we realized that there weren't really many supports for those facing homelessness or abuse [and] in shelters . . . So, when my work hosted a goal funder, we came up with Love Packs. When we were stuck at home during the pandemic, we wanted to pick up something actionable. That was the main driving force. Just hearing about the reactions of all of the women and children and homeless folks that we provided for inspired us to continue it to be more than a one-time initiative. We ended up getting to do another one in the summer and now we're taking it into 2022. 

MM: Just thinking about the degree of how much more difficult the pandemic is for someone living in a shelter was also part of my reason for wanting to really help. We just wanted to make sure that we could provide them with things that they could use day to day and then also other gifts that would make them happier. 

HM: To add on, something kind of unique about Love Packs is we tried to go beyond things like toilet paper, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste. We provide that but we also try to include little gifts. We wanted to give people things that they might consider to be luxuries and might not have access to. These are actual people who deserve to be celebrated. So, we had the opportunity last year to give some fun gifts like makeup, snack packs and different kinds of fancy coffees and teas. We had Starbucks donate some fancy coffee. We really try to incorporate that into our philosophy of not only just giving the essentials but trying to go a little bit above and beyond that. 

Could you guys talk a little bit more about the Love Packs team? 

HM: Last year we did it with just the two of us in our basement. Especially with COVID, it was one of the things where we thought that we can't get more hands because at that point, vaccines weren't so much a thing and cases were through the roof. Still, it was great to see so many people text me. We even had some friends from middle school who we hadn't talked to in five years offer donations. It was cool to see people helping in that capacity. Even then, two or three of my close friends and our parents helped us transport different things when we had super large donations or for the final trip when we brought everything to the shelters. Our communities helped out a lot and we were so grateful. That inspired us to make it bigger this year and grow the team. We’re gaining some traction and are actively recruiting volunteers right now. In fact, we just hired our [executive] team because we want to grow this to reach out to more people this year and give Love Packs to more people. 

How have you guys been feeling about just the General McMaster community then? And I guess the communities that you've been interacting with as a whole 

MM: I started at McMaster without really having been on campus. But I found it fascinating even with online learning. It's just a really welcoming environment and I definitely found a lot of people who are happy to connect. We've even had one of the local doughnut shops, Donut Monster, donate to our project. It was just really nice to see people in Hamilton contributing as well. 

HM: It's been amazing to see how many people from McMaster have either donated to us or businesses have supported us. Actually, the guy who drove the doughnuts from Donut Monster to our home in Mississauga, I met him through mock trial at McMaster. So, I had only known him for maybe not even a year through meetings once a week. But he still said that he'd do it. It was great to see how people are so willing to help out. 

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