Boxes of hope

New initiative aims to brighten up the holidays for women in shelters

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s important to keep in mind those who don’t have the means to experience the season of sharing gifts the way many of us do. The Shoebox Project, a registered non-profit based in Toronto that collects shoeboxes filled with luxury goods and delivers them to women in shelters, helps to do just that. 

“It is specifically directed at women instead of children, just because children usually get so much focus that we thought that it would be nice for the women to get a gift,” Winnipeg coordinator Eva Whitmore says. “Some of them haven’t had gifts for years.” 

Each box, valued at about $50, contains items that a woman would enjoy, but may not be able to buy for herself, such as makeup or chocolate. 

2013 marks the first year Winnipeg is one of 20 cities across the country participating in the project, with boxes being distributed to Alpha House, Ikwe Widdjiitiwin and Osborne House.  However, due to an outpouring of public support, Whitmore is hoping to distribute boxes to Agape House in Steinbach and Nova House in Selkirk, too.

“The response has been phenomenal. The three shelters [in Winnipeg that] I contacted, we needed about 60 boxes… but just from the contacts I’ve had, we’re over 150 now.”

If the number of boxes surpasses the number of residents in the shelters, the boxes will be passed on to women through shelter outreach programs. 

“We were very pleased when we got the call and learned that we would be the recipients of this very innovative idea,” confirms Marlene Bertrand, provisional administrator at Osborne House. 

“It must be a lot of fun to take and fill a shoebox. It’s not a monumental project, but one where you can really put items in there that are both practical and have a little bit of luxury to them as well,” Bertrand continues.  “We’re so happy to be recognized as one of the many worthy agencies to [be a part of] this project.” 

Osborne House provided residential services to 421 women and 361 children in the 2012-2013 fiscal year alone. Most stayed at the shelter for up to one month. 

From November 18 to December 22, boxes can be dropped off at one of eight Winnipeg locations including three of Winnipeg’s public libraries.

Published in Volume 68, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 20, 2013)

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