Marina Hargrave is the lead for The Campbell River Shoebox Project in Port Hardy/North Island. (Submitted)

Marina Hargrave is the lead for The Campbell River Shoebox Project in Port Hardy/North Island. (Submitted)

Gift cards given to local women in need this holiday season

The Shoebox Project went to a virtual campaign due to COVID-19

Thanks to the generosity of local individuals, groups and several businesses and some additional funding, almost 360 local disadvantaged women will receive gift cards this holiday. Due to COVID-19, the Campbell River Shoebox Project was not able to provide gift-filled shoeboxes, but donations made it possible to buy gift cards.

The Shoebox Project went to a virtual campaign where donors could create a virtual shoebox, or donate online at www.shoeboxproject.com. Drop off locations also accepted donations in person.

Alison Skrepneck, local Shoebox Project Coordinator explained, “I really didn’t know how the campaign would go this year with many people struggling financially due to the pandemic and since the format of providing the gifts for local women was different. However, thanks to the generosity of people in our community which was supplemented by several grants, just over 300 women in Campbell River and about 50 women in Port Hardy/North Island will enjoy being able to purchase something special for themselves with the gift cards they receive. I am very pleased that we were able to provide as many gifts as we could this year and want to thank the community for your support once again.”

Skrepneck reported that donations were slow to come in initially, and as the campaign progressed the shelters and agencies reviewed their requests for gifts. Some adjusted their numbers from the initial request of 410 gift to about 350 gifts for the most vulnerable women. In the end, about 86 per cent of donations for the adjusted goal was reached, including approximately 90 per cent in Campbell River and a lower amount for the North Island. In order for all of the identified women to receive a gift, the most vulnerable women in the community including women living in shelters and those who are homeless will receive a somewhat larger gift than other local disadvantaged women.

Gift cards enclosed in an envelope along with an inspirational message were delivered to the following shelters and community agencies in Campbell River: Campbell River and North Island Transition Society which includes Campbell River Women’s Resource Centre, Radiant Life Outreach, Salvation Army Evergreen House, AIDS Vancouver Island, Salvation Army Lighthouse Family Services, John Howard/Foundry, Opportunities Advocacy Services Centre, Immigrant Welcome Centre, Laichwiltach Family Life Society, Campbell River Public Health, Vancouver Mental Health Society, and Stopping the Violence Outreach Program in Campbell River and Gold River. The agencies in turn provided the gifts to vulnerable women prior to Christmas.

In Port Hardy/North Island, donations were significantly down this year due to a number of factors. Fortunately some Indigenous funds were accessed from The Shoebox Project head office in Toronto. Gift cards along with inspirational messages will be delivered by Marina Hargrave to over 50 local women in need through the North Island Crisis & Counselling Centre Society.

The Sheobox Project aims to spread love, compassion, empathy and hope to local women impacted by homelessness.

Thanks to everyone who donated, volunteered and helped promote the Campbell River Shoebox Project this year helping to brighten the holidays.

Special thanks to several groups and businesses that got involved to support the project for 2020. Coastal Community Credit Union provided a grant of $500 and Campbell River Rotary donated $1,000. Shoppers Drug Mart Tyee Plaza hosted a Cosmetic Goodie Bag fundraiser which raised $950. Several businesses were creative with donations this year: Ragdolz provided customers with a discount if they brought in gift cards and Mowi Canada West matched the donations from their staff. Since donations were down from the community this year, these extra initiatives really helped with providing gifts to local vulnerable women.

Phoenix Middle School students have participated in the past with The Shoebox Project. This year thanks goes to several classes of students that helped out by creating a large number of inspirational messages to go along with the Gift cards that the women will receive.

Fortunately the drop-off locations agreed to collect gift cards again this year. Special thanks to Coastal Community Credit Union in Discovery Harbour, La Tee Da Lingerie and Sundance Java Bar in Campbell River, and North Island Crisis & Counselling Centre Society in Port Hardy.

Due to the different format of providing gifts this year, not as many volunteers were needed to prepare them for delivery to the shelters and agencies. However, a dedicated team of volunteers have continued to support the project and thanks goes to those who helped out. Skrepneck said, “Just as members of the community missed filling the Shoeboxes with little luxuries this year, as volunteers we missed the opportunity to get together to inspect, decorate and deliver the shoebox gifts. However several of us found ways to do some of the work and connect with each other in a COVID safe manner a few times this season.”

This was the eighth year for the project in Campbell River and the fourth year on the North Island. For 2020, shelters and agencies were able to identify the most vulnerable women in the community.

Heather Brownhill from Opportunities Advocacy Services, shared her experience when she gave one of the gifts to a young woman recently. She wrote “At the end of a long appointment with a young, single mom, I pulled one of your amazing envelopes out of my drawer and explained where it came from. I proceeded to make her promise me that she would buy herself a treat, because as a mom it is very easy to spend the money on the kids and forget about yourself. She broke down in tears telling me that during the pandemic she has felt so alone and did not get any financial, emotional or physical support from her family. The gift meant absolutely everything to her.”

The Shoebox Project for Women, supported by Dream, collects and distributes gift-filled shoeboxes to women impacted by homelessness. Each ebox is filled with items valued at $50 that can enhance self-worth and reduce isolation.

The Shoebox Project now delivers over 64,000 gifts annually to hundreds of communities across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Thanks again Campbell River and the North Island for your generosity and support. Hopefully for 2021 The Shoebox Project will be able to return to providing gift filled shoeboxes for local women in need. Please watch for information next fall!

– Submitted