Imagine slipping on a new pair of cozy socks and reading a card with some kind words during the holiday season.
That’s the feeling Alice Toner is hoping to spread to women across the Island who are homeless or at risk of homelessness this December.
“We all enjoy to be pampered sometimes,” said Toner.
Last Christmas, Toner was looking for a way to spread cheer and stumbled across the shoebox project for women.
She had filled several boxes before she realized there was no P.E.I. chapter to distribute her gifts.
“Local women weren’t benefitting from it. I thought that didn’t really seem fair. So, I took it on.”
She and her husband have been saving shoeboxes ever since.
The shoeboxes are filled with gifts a person would give to a mom or sister - little luxuries to make a woman feel pampered.
Suggested items to include in a shoebox for women:
- Something warm: socks, mitts, scarf, hat, hand warmers
- Helpful items for warmer months: sunscreen, reusable water bottle
- Something sweet: nut-free chocolate and candy (not alcohol-filled)
- Cough drops, multivitamins
- Body or hand lotion, soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Brush, comb, shampoo, conditioner
- Nail polish, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, lip balm
- Purse-sized Kleenex, small cosmetic bag
- Gift cards (Tim Hortons, Shoppers, McDonalds, etc.)
- Please write the amount on the card or include the receipt
- Bus tickets
- Shower shoes, soap & toothbrush holder
- Journals, colouring books, pens, coloured pencils
- Supportive message
“Around the holidays, we know people experiencing homelessness can often feel isolated, disconnected from family, friends, forgotten. So, the goal of providing these gifts is, for one, we can help brighten the day of a woman who receives them, and can help them feel empowered, heard - not forgotten. It can help reduce some of those feelings of isolation.”
Items in the shoebox can include something soft, something sweet and something to feel freshened up, like a masque or non-colour specific makeup like mascara or lipgloss.
“We actually avoid the practical things,” said Toner. “The shoeboxes are purely about being a gift.”
Danielle Annand has seen just how much the gifts mean to the women who receive them.
Annand is the shelter co-ordinator at the Chief Mary Bernard Memorial shelter in Lennox Island. Her shelter has been getting shoeboxes from Halifax for the past few Christmases.
“It’s extremely, extremely helpful to how we provide service to the women,” said Annand.
The reaction to the written messages is very positive, she said, especially for the women who are living at the shelter over Christmas.
“Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve received a gift in a very long time.”
Any extra shoeboxes the shelter receives are distributed throughout the year, “when someone’s needing a little something”, said Annand.
“I think it’s a really great service,” she said. “It does go to people who need it.”
The project asks the value of a shoebox to be around $50.
Anyone who wants to help but can’t commit to an entire shoebox can donate individual items or make a donation online, making sure to indicate for the gift is to go to P.E.I.
Shoeboxes and items can be dropped off between Dec. 1 – 15 at any Mel’s location across P.E.I.
They’ll be inspected to make sure each box is roughly even in value and distributed to a participating organization on P.E.I.
So far, Anderson House and the Chief Mary Bernard Memorial Shelter are on board and Toner is working with other groups as well to reach the most women possible.
“We are looking for volunteers at all different levels – anyone who can contribute a couple of hours to people who want to be involved on a more ongoing basis,” said Toner.
Right now, she’s a one-woman show.
Her goal is 150 shoeboxes.
“Before I knew how many women there were to reach, I felt like that was a huge goal. Now I feel like it’s not so huge,” said Toner. “Being our first year, that’ll be our starting point.”
Items to NOT include in The Shoebox Project:
- Used goods and hotel samples (these are not the type of items to make someone feel special and loved)
- Sized clothing (i.e. S, M, L, XL) should not be included because beautiful women come in all different sizes
- Mouthwash or hand-sanitizers containing alcohol
- Bubble bath or bath bombs, as most shelters do not have bathtubs
- Foundations or concealers should not be included because each person has a unique skin tone
- Jumbo-sized containers
- Feminine hygiene products
- Anything opened or not packaged
- For more information: shoeboxproject.com