Shoebox Project helps women in need

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One of the special things about an established, shoebox-themed project is that a lot of love can be delivered in a relatively small package.

The Shoebox Project for Women, supported by Klick HEALTH, Manitoba chapter will return to a more tangible, hands-on approach this year in light of relaxed pandemic restrictions, having adopted a more virtual approach during the past two years.

The project is an unaffiliated, non-religious, registered Canadian charity with over 45 volunteer-driven local chapters. The mission of the organization is to share empathy, kindness and compassion with local women impacted by homelessness through the collection and distribution of gift-filled Shoeboxes and messages of support.

Photo by Simon Fuller

The Shoebox Project for Women, supported by Klick HEALTH, Manitoba chapter co-ordinator Alex Todd is pictured at St. Eugene Parish recently. This year’s official campaign will start on Nov. 21 and run until Dec. 12.

The campaign centres around community members collecting $50 worth of items to fill shoeboxes, which are then decorated and distributed to women staying in shelters throughout the province during the holiday season.

Noting volunteers and donors have “truly missed the activities associated with our holiday campaign,” Alex Todd, co-ordinator of the project’s Manitoba chapter, said it’s exciting to once again be collecting items for Shoeboxes to be distributed across the province.

This year’s official campaign will start on Nov. 21 and run until Dec. 12, which will mark the last drop-off for Shoebox gifts. The Manitoba chapter utilizes space at St. Eugene Parish in St. Vital to help its operations as donations start to come in.

Todd, who lives in Lord Roberts, said the initiative’s founding mandate focuses on women across the province who are facing challenges that “could be, or eventually lead to, homelessness, especially over the holidays.”

“There are a myriad of reasons why any person may find themselves in this situation, including escaping gender-based or intimate partner violence,” Todd said. “We hope the women will receive the messages of ‘You are not alone’ and ‘We see you.’”

Todd said recommended items for the Shoeboxes represent “a present we would want our own family members to have.”

Such items include shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and a toothbrush, as well as a new scarf, hat and mitts, or gloves.

“Then, there are some items that may be considered luxurious to women in challenging circumstances such as body lotion, bath gel, lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara, a sweet treat or hot beverage packet, and even a pretty piece of jewelry,” Todd said, noting pierced earrings are regrettably not suitable donations.

Other products — alcohol, mouthwash, candies and chocolates containing or filled with alcohol — are not allowed as donation items.

“Likewise, candies or chocolates that are nut-centric are also restricted from inclusion,” Todd added.

Todd said it’s important for donors to know all donations stay in Manitoba and are allocated for “Shoebox supplies and content items for the women.”

“And we are so deeply grateful to our dedicated volunteers, community donors and supporters, without whom we could not do what we do,” Todd said.

Photo by Simon Fuller

The Shoebox Project for Women, supported by Klick HEALTH, Manitoba chapter co-ordinator Alex Todd is pictured at St. Eugene Parish recently. This year’s official campaign will start on Nov. 21 and run until Dec. 12.

One local beneficiary of the project is Willow Place, which provides family violence prevention services in the province.

The organization operates Manitoba’s largest and most-utilized family violence shelter service, counting more than 9,000 stays and supporting between 850 and 950 women and children annually, said Pam Hadder, Willow Place’s community co-ordinator/supervisor.

Hadder said Willow Place has been fortunate to receive support from the Shoebox Project for a number of years and is grateful for its continued contributions.

“Those accessing Willow Place shelter have typically exhausted all other means of support, and without services would face ongoing abuse, including life-threatening situations. In recent years, the COVID pandemic has further highlighted community need, and we are seeing increasing calls for support, as well as more acute needs among those we serve. Operational costs continue to increase, and we rely upon donations to meet many participant needs,” Hadder said in an emailed statement.

“Amid these challenges, the Shoebox Project has consistently found creative ways to provide beautiful gifts and necessities to women residing with us during the holiday season. The Shoebox Project exemplifies positive transformation that is possible when community members join forces to help others. We are immensely grateful for the thoughtful and timely contributions of Alex and her supporters.”

The original project was founded in 2011 by former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter, Caroline Mulroney Lapham, and her sisters-in-law Jessica, Vanessa and Katy Mulroney, which has since inspired numerous sister shoebox projects across Canada.

Todd said donation drop-off locations will include eight Winnipeg Public Library branches across the city, as well as Headingley Municipal Library. Branches include Henderson, Transcona, Louis Riel, St. James, Pembina Trail, Westwood, Osborne and Millennium.

Go online at www.shoeboxproject.ca/chapters/manitoba or email Todd at winnipeg@shoeboxproject.com for more information.

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at simon.fuller@canstarnews.com or call him at 204-697-7111.

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