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A shoebox goes a long way (3 photos)

In 2011, the Shoebox Project For Shelters delivered 400 boxes to women in four Toronto shelters, and within six years those numbers grew to 36,500 presents to women in 252 communities

The Barrie City Hall Rotunda will hopefully be filled with shoeboxes Friday that will be stuffed with joy for women in our community who could use a magical Christmas.

The Shoebox Project For Shelters (SPFS) is a national organization that started in 2011 with hopes of making Christmas a little brighter for women who have been displaced from their homes and are living in shelters. Shannon Murree is the coordinator for the Simcoe County and Simcoe Grey chapter of the SPFS and got involved as someone who sees the word as a strong, single mother and knows the importance of feeling that way.

“I am very much in support of women around the world, but especially in my own community,” said Murree. “Its obvious that the emotional aspect is something that is a pull for this initiative, but also too is making sure that women know their worth and that they are needed and wanted as pillars of their community. It is better economically for women to be involved and when you are living in a shelter it is hard to see that; we want to give them a boost and show them they’re loved and not forgotten.”

In 2011, the SPFS delivered 400 boxes to women in four Toronto shelters, and within six years those numbers grew to 36,500 presents to women in 252 communities. Murree is a mom and knows that Christmas is a special time of year for all, especially kids, but asks folks to think about their moms, aunts, grandmothers and sisters; what if they were alone and had nothing to open on Dec. 25?

“We focus on the mothers for this project, not to downplay other victims of domestic abuse but just because mom’s often forfeit their own happiness for their children’s joy and we understand that thinking. What we want to do is say mom needs a gift too, or even women who aren’t moms and just those ladies who need to feel like a woman and get those special items they really like.”

People are being asked to grab a shoebox and wrap it up (the bottom and top wrapped separately) and fill it with items that you feel could make a woman’s eyes light up as she opens the box up. Murree says that it isn’t too hard to put one together and suggests an uplifting note which will likely end up being the most cherished part.

“Things to consider are needed items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner and items like that; but also special soaps and fuzzy, comfy socks, a journal, gift cards for a coffee or a restaurant. There are the items they will need and appreciate and then there are the ones that they will have wanted and really adore but every box should contain a note telling them how appreciated they are or how this rough patch will pass. I have had shelters tell me of women who open the notes months later and smile, as if they needed a pick-me-up that day and the messages help them push through.”

The campaign started on Nov. 1 and Murree has been hard work getting things organized but with deadlines and boxes piling up, the busy real estate agent and wealth-strategy speaker is hoping to see hundreds of people this Friday at Barrie City Hall. Between 12 and 6 p.m. in the rotunda at 70 Collier St., you can not only drop-off your shoebox to the team on-hand, but also sign up as a volunteer to assist in the great cause. Murree knows how the campaign has positively affected her life by helping others and says those who sign up will not regret it.

“We need volunteers to help sort and deliver as well as greet on days we make these pushes in the community,” said Murree. “You will love the team atmosphere we have with this and the feeling of knowing you are making a women’s day a little bit brighter. We’d love to have everyone donate whether it’s just one person on their own, a family who goes and makes an outing of it or even businesses that use this as a team-building exercise for the company and staff; get involved once and I promise you’ll be hooked and want to do it every year.”

All items or in-kind donations are gladly accepted and will be used to fill even more shoeboxes if any companies or individuals would prefer. Monetary donations will kept local as well as the organizers have that option for anyone wanting to help their immediate community.

The partnering shelters and organizations that will be benefitting from this cause are:

Barrie Women and Children's Shelter
CMHC - Mental Health Association
Couchiching Jubilee House
Elizabeth Frye
Huronia Transitional Housing
Youth Haven

Barrie Native Friendship Centre

For more information on the Shoebox Project For Shelters, check their website.