Something as simple as a pair of warm gloves, a soft scarf and even a pair of earrings and some lipstick may seem trivial, but to a woman who’s lost everything and has been reduced to living on cold winter streets – it’s the world.
This was the idea behind the launch of the Vancouver Island Shoebox Project in 2011, which provides women in shelters with special items that otherwise they couldn’t afford.
But a shoebox is much more than that – it’s to make someone feel human and like a woman, again.
“This [shoebox] was something special these women couldn’t buy themselves, and that it would make them feel loved,” said Linda Ferguson, coordinator of the shoebox project on the Island, who added that every holiday season these groups of women in need and in transition seem to fall through the cracks of shelter programs.
Items can be something that feels good and can provide relative warmth and comfort for the winter, such as mitts, scarves, hats, socks, as well as more feminine items such as perfume, nail polish, earrings, lipstick and lip gloss. Items in past shoeboxes also had bus passes, gift cards to coffee and food shops – basically anything a woman who lives in a shelter can use.
Ferguson suggested other items, such as nail care kits or other sharp utensils should be avoided however – alcohol-based mouthwash, too.
Prepping a shoebox is simple, though the lid has to be wrapped separately in order to fit tightly and keep it from spilling open during storage and distribution. Each box is then individually checked by the administrators of each shelter to ensure its contents are safe and are tailored to each individual.
This is the third year Ferguson will run the program on the Island. Before, she was involved in a similar project in Vancouver, as a Sooke resident, she felt there wasn’t one here on the Island and decided to do something about it.
Last year, 624 shoeboxes were collected and distributed via 13 shelters on the Lower Island, from Sooke to Sidney. The goal this year is to have 1,000 boxes.
Twenty shelters will also be coming onboard, and around 30 drop off locations will be available across the region. Shoppers Drug Mart and Pacific Family Services in Sooke are drop-off locations.
While successful, Ferguson said the project’s biggest challenge so far has been available storage space, though this year multiple people have donated some storage units and space in their garages.
For a more complete list of items, as well as how you create a shoebox contribution, please go online to shoeboxproject.com.