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Help sought to ensure vulnerable women are 'not forgotten'

'It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a lot in the eyes of the recipient,' says official of program that looks to help women who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness

Local organizers of the Shoebox Project for Women aim to fill 500 shoeboxes to help brighten the day for women and girls in Simcoe and Grey counties who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

“We want to make sure that they’re reminded that they’re not forgotten or alone during the holidays,” said local co-ordinator Shannon Murree, who created the local chapter eight years ago and who also sits on the organization’s national board.

The gesture behind the boxes can have a big impact for women and girls who have been displaced from their homes and who are unable to connect with family during the holiday season, she added.

The boxes are filled with little luxury items that may seem small to some, but Murree said can help to brighten someone’s day.

They might contain something special like a gift card, something sweet like chocolate, something pretty like high-end lip gloss and something practical, like lozenges.

A handwritten note or card with a warm greeting or letter of support also gives the box the personal touch.

“It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a lot in the eyes of the recipient,” said Murree, particularly for someone who likely they’d never be homeless or in their current situation and often are at the lowest point in their lives.

“When you think about all of us, how we all have these mental challenges of what we’re all facing this year and adding homelessness on top of that or not having anyone… just to be able to have a little glimmer of hope,” she said.

Each box is different, but they’re all curated to ensure they contain an equal balance of items that may have a value of about $50, all in.

Murree says donations of money and boxes, and even new items by organizations or outlets were to close last Saturday. But she said 377 shoeboxes still need to be filled so it’s been extended until next Saturday.

Donations can be dropped off at locations across the area all week in Barrie, Orillia, Bradford, Tottenham, Alliston and Innisfil. Financial donations can be made online which also lists dropoff locations. Tax receipts are available. 

How to put together a shoebox is also available online, where you can also create a virtual shoebox or buy a curated box.

Volunteers will be on hand Saturday at 164 Dunlop St. W.

The boxes are to be delivered to local women shelters or community agencies serving vulnerable women and girls in time for the holidays.