Alisson Maloney-Nault smiles wide under her mask and holds back tears as she walks into her new, fully-furnished Notre-Dame-de-Grâce apartment. She carries her squirming one-year-old daughter, Skye, tightly on her hip as she takes in her surroundings.
After months holed up with her dog and child in her mother's home, she finally has a place to call her own.
"Oh my God. I was not expecting all this for me at all," she says. "I am speechless."
Maloney-Nault is one of seven families who had their new homes furnished by Giving Project Montreal, a new local grassroots organization that was started by nine women with the goal of giving back.
The group teamed up with O3 Montreal — which stands for On Our Own Montreal — a community-based group that helps find affordable housing for families in need.
Together, they helped provide the families with affordable, fully-furnished homes last week. The apartments came complete with furniture, stocked pantries, and toys and books for the children.
For Maloney-Nault, the new home means less time spent stressing over finding a place to live, and more time spent raising Skye and focusing on finishing high school.
"I just want to cry, Learning there's someone here for me, helping me with my journey … I'm just so thankful," she said.
"I want [Skye] to experience having her own room for the first time."
Maloney-Nault wasn't the only one in tears. As she watched families moving into their new homes, Giving Project Montreal co-founder Brenda Rosenburg couldn't help but become emotional.
"It's really touching to be a part of this and to be able to see how we've helped these families," said Rosenburg.
Through the organization's website, Rosenburg and other volunteers collect donations in order to help those who need.
Ushana Houston, director of O3 Montreal, said the collaboration came at the perfect time.
"It's changed our lives because it's giving something that we are not able to do as a program and this is just the perfect mix of grassroots helping grassroots," she said.
"They are walking into not just an apartment, but a home, that is set up, that is warm, that has all the things that they need."
The community organizers hope that their work will inspire others to give back, no matter how small their actions may seem, especially as families face added pressure amid the pandemic.
"That's really what O3 is about and hopefully what society is about in these COVID times — everyone helping in their little corner in any way that they can," said Houston.