Christmas is fast approaching and Debora Schenk and her small cadre of volunteers are doing their best to make the season a little brighter for women who most need Community support.
It’s called The Shoebox Project for Shelters and was created to help those women who are in crisis – homeless after having fled domestic violence and living in transition homes within the community. The project is supported by Toronto based real estate firm, Dream REIT, and has branches across the country but only started on Vancouver Island in 2013.
Transition homes are generally in confidential locations and the women in them can feel forgotten and disconnected from mainstream society. Schenk said that The Shoebox Project is one way of reaching these women and telling them they are not alone.
There are about 20 women who find themselves in transition homes at any given time.
“I’m the Victoria region coordinator and I want to point out that the entire program is volunteer driven to help women from Sidney to Sooke,” Schenk said.
“Last year, we distributed 975 boxes to women in crisis and we hope to match that number this year.”
Inshore added that, while the main distribution of boxes takes place between Dec. 16 and 21, any extra boxes are saved and distributed as needed.
“Women aren’t just in crisis at Christmas,” Schenk said.
The idea is for people to decorate an empty shoebox and then fill the box with items that would help any woman feel special.
Organizers suggest boxes be filled with items like gift cards, skin care products, good quality soaps and shampoos, make-up, chocolates and warm mittens and socks.
The value of the contents of the shoeboxes should be about $50 and people are also encouraged to write simple notes of support and include the notes in the box as a way of reaching out to the recipients of the boxes.
Those notes should not be religiously based, noted Schenk, as the recipients span a wide variety of faiths and beliefs.
“All the boxes are inspected before we distribute them and we’ll remove religious tracts and any inappropriate items as well as checking for quality control. The high quality of items is one feature that sets this program aside from other donations that transition houses might receive throughout the year,” Schenk said.
“We’re looking for items that you would like to receive as a gift or items that you might purchase for your mother or a close friend. Used items and things like hotel sample shampoos aren’t appropriate to the message we’re trying to send.”
In Sooke, decorated and filled shoeboxes for women in crisis can be dropped off at Carolyn’s Boutique, Shoppers Drug Mart, and the Royal LePage offices.