The Shoebox Project has been seeking to empower at-risk and impoverished women in Campbell River since 2013. Pictured here are the 2019 volunteer team, from left to right: Jeannie Matthews, Sue McCormac, Local coordinator Alison Skrepneck, and Margret West (Photo: Courtesy Alson Skrepneck)

Shoebox Project begins Nov. 14

Project seeks to empower, motivate and inspire impoverished and at-risk women

Local women around the North Island will see their holidays brighten a bit this coming season.

Seeking to empower vulnerable and impoverished gender-diverse individuals and women, the Shoebox Project will launch Nov. 14 in Campbell River and surrounding areas.

The charity encourages community interaction as this population may face such pitfalls as hidden homelessness, domestic violence, as well as increased rates of poverty and unemployment. By donating a shoebox filled with items totalling $50, the idea is that it can raise self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation for those women in need.

The goal for this year is to provide nearly 600 shoeboxes for local women, with 455 for Campbell River and about 120 for Port Hardy and the North Island.

“We are challenged by a new face of homelessness and its meaning,” says charity executive director Lesley Hendry. “As our organization evolves, our focus is expanding beyond meaninigful gifts of kindness to a broader education campaign.”

A box with a total value of $50 should include a gift card to a grocery store or pharmacy, with a value of $10; various toiletries, such as toothpaste, hair care products, and other miscellenous hygiene products; socks; cosmetics; nut-free candy or chocolate; a warm accessory, such as handwarmers, a hat, mitts or a scarf; one skin-care item, such as hand cream or body lotion; and a self-care item, such as a journal to write in or a colouring book.

The Shoebox Project is an initative which started in Toronto, Ont. in 2011. The Campbell River chapter has been operating since 2013, and expanded to Port Hardy and the North Island area four years later. During the COVID-19 pandemic, loose items were replaced by gift cards.

But, with donations from the community and some additional funding, 433 gifts of gift cards were delivered to local shelters and agencies – 329 in Campbell River, and another 100 plus to Port Hardy/North Island. The value of these gift cards totalled $15,000.

“We heard that donors really missed creating the Shoebox gifts the last two years,” says Hendry.”We hope that the hands on experience of creating a special Shoebox gift for a woman who is less fortunate will provide an opportunity for more people in the community to get involved and give generously this year.

If you’d like to help, you can drop off a shoebox at the following locations between Nov. 14 and Dec. 7: Coastal Community Credit Union (Discovery Harbour), La Tee Da Lingerie (Shoppers Row), or Coho Books (Willow Point) in Campbell River or the North Island Crisis and Counselling Centre Society, located off Beverly Parnham Way in Port Hardy.

Edward Hitchins

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