Shoebox Project helps women avoid homelessness

Volunteers on Vancouver Island and across North America are thinking out of the box to help women in need this holiday season.

“This is something that resonates with women,” says Linda Ferguson, Vancouver Island co-ordinator for The Shoebox Project for Shelters Christmas campaign, which benefits women at risk of homelessness.

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Donors pack a shoebox full of necessities like shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, socks and little luxuries such as makeup, nail polish, skin-care products and gift cards.

Those taking part in the project — sponsored by Dream, a national real estate company — can also include a brief note or card intended for their gift’s recipient, she said.

While each shoebox is meant to be filled with items valued at $50 in total, Ferguson says most shoeboxes destined for women in 130 communities across Canada are worth much more than that.

“Women are so generous, and it doesn’t require a big commitment,” says Ferguson, who got involved four years ago after learning that her daughter in Vancouver was supporting the charitable movement. It was founded in 2011 by sisters-in-law Caroline, Jessica, Katy and Vanessa Mulroney.

The Shoebox Project, which has 45 chapters, delivers 25,000 gifts annually with a value of close to $3 million to hundreds of communities across Canada and the U.S.

“It’s very grassroots,” Ferguson says. “It’s one woman sharing with another.”

Participants are asked to deliver their gift-wrapped shoebox at locations listed on the project’s website before Dec. 17. The name of the project website is

Victoria locations include Our Place Society, 919 Pandora Ave.; Island Savings Credit Union’s Mayfair Shopping Centre branch; and Pacific Centre Family Services, 345 Wale Rd.

Other Vancouver Island drop-off locations include Network Hub Nanaimo, 120-256 Wallace St., Nanaimo; Nanaimo North Town Centre, 4750 Rutherford Rd., Nanaimo; Iris & June Floral Boutique, 151B Morrison Ave., Parksville; Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, 33 Roberts St., Ladysmith; and Coastal Community Credit Union, 1354 Island Highway, Campbell River.

Volunteer drivers will deliver the shoeboxes to local women’s shelters.

Supporters can also donate online financially if preferred, says Ferguson, whose Victoria chapter delivered 1,118 shoeboxes to 10 shelters last year.

Ferguson says she is confident the project will continue to expand across Vancouver Island.

“I do Sooke to Sidney, but I have hundreds of volunteers,” says Ferguson. “It keeps growing. It just requires someone in a community to share it.”

A big plus, she says, is that the shoeboxes and funds raised are distributed in the community in which they are collected.

This year’s #JustGiveLove campaign extended its reach even further, to aboriginal women in remote areas of the country, with the recent establishment of its Shoebox Project for Shelters Aboriginal Women Fund.

This is the season for helping others, with many projects making our community a warmer place for everyone.

The Times Colonist Christmas Fund raised and distributed about $300,000 to local agencies last year and, like The Shoebox Project for Shelters, provides a way to help others.

The newspaper fund provides financial assistance to Our Place and works with the Salvation Army and the Mustard Seed, which handles the disbursement of most of the funds.

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Donate to the Christmas Fund

Since 1956, this newspaper has collected money to benefit the less fortunate. We work with the Salvation Army and the Mustard Seed, which handle the disbursement of most of the funds, and also provide financial help to Our Place.

To donate, go online to: You will be directed to a Canada Helps donation form; once you make your donation, a tax receipt will be provided immediately.

Or mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, V8T 4M2.

You can use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Outside those hours, messages will be accepted.

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