I am living a blessed life. I am warm and cozy at night in a place I can call my own. I have an amazing wife and extended family. I do not experience the fear or reality of domestic violence. And I have a job that pays well and lets me afford little luxuries.
This was not always the case. I remember a time when I was thrilled to find an extra dime at the bottom of my purse which meant that I could afford bus fare. Or when I found $5 in a puddle next to the curb which meant that I could buy the jar of peanut butter I'd been craving. It was a time of survival, not one of luxury. And it was a mean existence. But I was lucky - I had friends and colleagues who made that time seem less dark and helped me through.
It's important that we have hope in our lives. And to know that someone, even a stranger, cares. Which is why I am so pleased to be a part of The Shoebox Project for Shelters' Vancouver launch (official letter).
The Shoebox Project for Shelters is a non-for-profit initiative that collects small gifts that are packaged in shoeboxes, and distributes them to women in shelters just before the holidays. These shelters provide emergency and transitional shelter and services to women who are homeless because they flee abuse or difficult living situations, they are poor or afflicted with mental illness or they are new Canadians who require assistance.
These shoeboxes brighten the holiday season and let the women know they are special and not forgotten. They are filled with items that a woman would enjoy but would not splurge on for herself in times of difficulty.
This is the second official year of The Shoebox Project in Montreal and Toronto. This year, it is launching in Halifax, London and Vancouver. In Vancouver, we are collecting shoeboxes for the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre and the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre.
OK, here's my ask …
The holidays are approaching and they bring with them a lot of pressures. Including the pressure to give to charitable organizations. I know that it's a tough economic time for people and budgets are tight. But please read this comment from the Program Supervisor at Street Haven Shelter in Toronto …
The women loved the boxes and all of the items in them, a few of the women were ecstatic as they had never received or owned a bottle of perfume, they loved the make-up, chocolates and body care products. For a few of the women it was the first time they were celebrating the holidays and they were so emotional about how wonderful everything was and how grateful they are to organizations like yours.
Ladies ... imagine never having received a bottle of perfume. Or always having to choose peanut butter or other staples over hand lotion or lip balm. Or a little box of Lindor chocolates.
I would like to invite you … either alone or as part of a group (maybe your book club or your play date group or your yoga class - or even an activity with your kids) … to make a shoebox (or heck, more than one shoebox!). Our goal is 100 shoeboxes in Vancouver. I would like to think that my network alone could create those 100 shoeboxes. Is that expecting too much?
What should go in the box (approximately $50 in value):
- Body or hand lotions
- Makeup: mascara, lipstick and nail polish. (Please no concealers or foundations)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Chocolates, cookies, candies
- Mitts, hat, scarf
- Brush, comb
- Bus or subway tokens / phone card
- Gift certificates (McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, Wal-Mart, Cineplex). Please include the receipt!
Important to know:
- Value: Please keep the value of your shoebox contents to approximately $50. At this time, we will not be able to provide tax receipts for your donations.
- Packaged Goods Only Please: Please make sure that the gifts are all packaged, sealed and unused!
- Decoration: You may decorate your shoebox with a pretty holiday or Christmas bow but please do not wrap your shoebox as it must be opened for inspection before it can be distributed.
- Drop off: You may bring your shoebox to our following drop off locations starting today and until Monday, December 17th:
- Vancouver: 2305 McLean Drive (Mon to Fri: 8AM to 6PM; Sat: 11AM to 6PM)
- Downtown: 1088 Richards Street (only available on select evenings and weekends). Please email to confirm drop-off prior to.
For more information:
- The Shoebox Project Website | Vancouver page
- The Shoebox Project Facebook | Twitter
- A great article about The Shoebox Project on the Huffington Post by one of the co-founders, Caroline Mulroney Lapham
Oh, and if you don't have a shoebox, don't worry. Just bring the items by in a bag .. we'll pack them into one or more shoeboxes for you.
Thank you for reading this and for your consideration. And on your next trip to Shopper's Drug Mart or London Drugs, maybe add a few more things to your basket. You'll be bringing a few moments of joy to a woman who may not be anticipating finding this time of year particularly joyful.
Oh .. one more thing for my friends in PR. If you represent a company who could donate items to a few boxes (not all 100 - even 1/2 a dozen would be great), could you ask them? Small retailers or franchise owners? I'll gladly pick items up. Thanks!