Linda Ferguson, organizer of the Shoebox Project in Sooke, shows off the fundraiser’s sponsored tree at SEAPARC’s Festival of Trees on Monday, Dec. 4. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Linda Ferguson, organizer of the Shoebox Project in Sooke, shows off the fundraiser’s sponsored tree at SEAPARC’s Festival of Trees on Monday, Dec. 4. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Christmas fundraisers join forces in Sooke

Shoebox Project part of Festival of Trees

The holidays are a time when people often come together and try to give back, which is exactly what two local fundraisers are doing this year in Sooke.

SEAPARC’s annual Festival of Trees is back for the ninth year, and will have nine trees on display sponsored by the Sooke Royal CanadianLegion, the Sooke Lioness Club, the Rotary Club of Sooke, four Sooke elementary schools, and another local fundraiser called the Shoebox Project.

The event runs until Jan. 4, and people can go to SEAPARC to vote and donate towards their favourite tree. The tree that receives the most votes will win a plaque, with proceeds going to the B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“With the children’s hospital, it’s one of those things that until you need their services you tend not to think about them,” said Elizabeth Olsen, an organizer of the event. “But then again with the amount of families in Sooke that use the hospital’s services, I think it really hits home. You know, when you’re child’s sick there’s nothing else that matters.”

Olsen said her favourite part about the festival is the tree trimming and seeing how the centre looks when the trees are decorated.

“People walk in and have a big smile when they see the trees, so I think it really speaks to the Christmas spirit,” said Olsen. “I love seeing the joy it brings people.”

Linda Ferguson, an organizer of the Shoebox Project, said having their fundraiser sponsor a tree at SEAPARC is a win-win situation because money goes towards the hospital, but it also builds some much-needed awareness around the Shoebox Project.

This is the fifth year the Shoebox Project has taken place in Sooke, and each year, individuals, businesses, and organizations put together gifts for women-in-need in a shoe box, which are then delivered to different shelters around the Island.

The project runs until Dec. 17, and Ferguson said this year she hopes to round up approximately 1,500 shoe boxes for Sooke.

“All of the shoe boxes stay in the community, and even though people might not see it, there is a need right here in Sooke,” said Ferguson.

People are encouraged to include a message of inspiration inside the shoe box they donate for the women who are receiving it.

“These women are often moved to tears when they receive their boxes because right now they are at a difficult time in their life, so it’s amazing to let them know that a complete stranger out there supports them, loves them, and believes that they will get through it.”

Ferguson added that the project brings awareness to the community that there are many women who end up in shelters over the holidays, and this year there is more of a need than ever, so the project is seeking as much help as possible.

“This is a time of year where people in need can feel very vulnerable,” she said. “So it’s extremely rewarding to help out and know that you are making a difference in someone’s life.”

To volunteer or learn how to donate to the Shoebox Project, visit shoeboxproject.com.