My favourite time of the year is the holiday season, mostly because I think that it is a warm and cozy time of year that rejuvenates all of us in some way or another. However, there are many people who might not have a support system or family of any sort there for them. I think that the number one most important aspect of the holidays is giving back and paying it forward, and The Shoebox Project is a fantastic way to do that. Women in need are often left in the shadows, and this is the perfect way to reach out and help!
For anyone who doesn’t know, The Shoebox Project is for women who are in shelters- a shoebox filled with $50 worth of goods is given to a woman, because she may not have any money for herself and if she does, it may go to children or other family members. We have filled the boxes with toiletries and make up, mitts, hats, and socks, chocolates and candies, gift cards, bus tickets/tokens, thoughtful cards and hopeful messages. I often get a lot of the items I donate at the dollar store to make the most of the $50 (paired with the fact that a lot of it is brand name anyways). In the last few years, I’ve found that we often have too many things and can’t fit it all in!
At the holiday times, there are groups that make sure that children have toys, but adults are often in the background and not recognised. This is a straightforward and thoughtful way to help women in need know that there are people who might not know about them but still care for them, and give them items that they may truly need. I like to do this with a group of friends and family, as a bigger group of people can usually gather at least a box per person, sometimes even more. We watch a Christmas movie, wear Christmas sweaters, and embrace the whole she-bang! (I like to think that the good vibes are in the boxes and get sent along with the other gifts.)
If you visit The Shoebox Project’s website, you will find a list of what they recommend that you include in a box and what is specifically prohibited. They will also list the dates that boxes must be submitted by, and where you can drop them off in your city. My tips for a seamless process and wonderful box?
1) Have a chat or email chain going to stay organised on who will be bringing what- you don’t need 4 pairs of fluffy socks for one box, or 3 bottles of shampoo and no toothbrush or deodorant! We always try to balance between $20 of bus tickets/gift cards and $30 of things to make a full box that is also useful, but it takes planning to get there!
2) Let people know as early as possible! If people don’t want to drop the full amount all at once, they can pick up a few things when they happen to be out and shopping to spread it over paycheques. It also means that people will set aside the time to actually assemble the boxes!
3) Don’t wrap the box closed!!! The organisers go through each box to ensure that there isn’t anything included that shouldn’t be, and that boxes are of equal value. (Creating a box worth $120 just means that it will spread throughout other boxes so that everyone who receives a box will receive the same amount.) You can usually buy Christmas boxes that are the right size at the dollar store that make that whole part a lot easier!
4) Remember to include “fun” things- while women in shelters very well may need toiletries and make up (for when they interview for jobs/living spaces/anything important), it’s also crucial to include a few things that are just for fun. Chocolates, candies, and spa type items are all perfect to remind them that the world loves them even though it might not seem like it.
How do you give back in the holidays?