Back in November I posted about The Shoebox Project for Shelters - a cross-Canada initiative to assemble and distribute shoeboxes that contain small luxuries to gift to women in shelters over the holidays. I was so pleased to be part of the Vancouver team. We collected and distributed 261 boxes to the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre, Ray Cam Community Centre and the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver, part of the 2700 that were collected and distributed across the country.
It was a truly inspiring project to be a part of. Aside from being able to brighten the holiday season for 261 women, I also got to meet some generous, kind-hearted people. Some of the folks who delivered boxes to our door:
- A super-charming older gentleman who came to the door and handed us a roll of wrapping paper and a shoebox in a shopping bag. Seeing that we were puzzled by the lightness of the shoebox, he rummaged around in the shopping bag and pulled out a crisp $50 bill that was safely stored in a sandwich bag. "I want to help, but I don't know what to buy for ladies."
- Two women from a five-person dentist office who delivered a pair of boxes plus a bag of extras. They decided to forgo their office's Secret Santa and instead create shoeboxes.
- A woman who delivered 20 boxes in her SUV. She, her four daughters and their husbands/boyfriends had made this a weekend project.
- A young man who seemed like he just finished his shift on a traffic construction site (he was wearing a lot of safety and reflective gear). He pulled the equivalent of the contents of a full shoebox from various pockets in his coat and vest. It was pretty spectacular.
- A very shy young woman accompanied by her brother (or possibly boyfriend?). He stood and waited on the sidewalk while she rang the bell. She didn't say anything .. but handed over a beautifully wrapped shoebox. She ducked her head and smiled when I said thank you - and looked back to the young man on the street. He gave her a big smile and two thumbs up. She smiled again, turned back to me, waved and hurried back to the fellow on the street.
- A woman and crazy-busy tech executive who wasn't able to drop off the boxes herself, but sent a courier with a couple of boxes and some extras at the end of the day on the last day we were collecting (this is a woman after my own heart).
These are just the few that stuck out. Everyone who dropped off a box was excited about the project and happy to be participating. Most people found out about us through the article that appeared in Vancouver 24 hours. So thank you, Cam!!
And thank you to my friends and colleagues who supported this project. Whether you assembled and gifted a box or spent an afternoon with us assembling and wrapping boxes (a lot of folks brought the contents sans shoebox), I appreciate all of you!! And a HUGE thank you to my wife, Rosemary. She went through every single box that we collected (over 100 at our location) and checked each item. She sorted and discarded items like used makeup brushes, 1/2 empty bottles of lotion and expired Cups of Soup (a few people used this as a "clean out under my bathroom sink opportunity"). But thanks to her, no woman in a shelter received a bag of partially used, schmutz-coated hotel shampoo samples.
Assembling a Shoebox for 2013
One of the comments that both I and another of the drop-off locations heard was that there is already a lot of time and money pressure on people during the holidays - so would it be possible to do this at a different time of year? I think this is a great point and here is my idea: let's build a shoebox over the course of the year. That way, the $50 outlay isn't all at once and hopefully you can incorporate purchasing that month's item into your regular shopping.
So, I'm going to do that. Over 2013, I'll assemble a shoebox .. taking into account that there are some things we don't want to buy too early (makeup, chocolate) because of potential expiry. I've started a summary page that includes what is going into my box as well as some alternative ideas for that month. Then each month, I'll post the new item that's going into my shoebox and link it on the summary page. Sound good?
Shoebox Item for January
Well, the first thing on the list was "get a shoebox" :) Trickier than you might think. But, now done. This month, the theme is dental care (start off the new year right - plus, toothpaste generally has a 2 year shelf life - the expiry date on this one is end of 2014). In the box this month: toothpaste, toothbrush and floss. Regular price would have been $13.50, but all these were on sale and came to only $6.00.