The Shoebox Project, Manitoba chapter is showing empathy towards women struggling with homelessness by surprising them with gift-filled shoeboxes.

Supported by Klick HEALTH, The Shoebox Project is an unaffiliated, non-religious Canadian charity that collects shoeboxes filled with gifts that are distributed to women impacted by homelessness. It is a way of showing kindness, support and compassion for struggling women.

The project consists of over 45 volunteer-driven local chapters, with Manitoba's campaign beginning today, November 21 and ending on Monday, December 12.

After adopting a virtual means for collection for the past two years due to the pandemic, The Shoebox Project will revert back to a more physical, in-person collection style.

Community members can fill shoeboxes with $50 worth of gifts to fill the shoeboxes, which are then decorated and distributed to women staying in local shelters during the holidays. 

Alex Todd, coordinator of the project’s Manitoba chapter says to the Winnipeg Free Press that volunteers and donors have "truly missed the activities associated with our holiday campaign."

During the time for collection, the Manitoba chapter operates out of St. Eugene Parish in St. Vital.

"There are a myriad of reasons why any person may find themselves in this situation, including escaping gender-based or intimate partner violence. We hope the women will receive the messages of 'You are not alone' and 'We see you,'" says Todd.

Items that are accepted in the shoeboxes include:

  • Hygiene items - shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Small winter clothing - hats, scarves, mittens, and gloves
  • Luxury items - body lotion, bath gel, lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara, jewelry (earrings not suitable)

Other items such as alcohol, mouthwash, candies and chocolate, are not accepted for donations.

Todd says that it is important for donors to know that all donated shoeboxes stay in Manitoba. She also thanks the volunteers, community donors and supporters, for without them, none of this would be possible.

Willow Place serves as one local beneficiary of the project, it is an organization that provides family violence prevention services in Manitoba. According to Pam Hadder, Willow Place's community coordinator/supervisor, it is the province's largest and most-utilized family violence shelter service, with more than 9,000 stays and supporting between 850 and 950 women and children annually. 

Hadder told the Winnipeg Free Press that Willow Place has been fortunate to receive support from the Shoebox Project for a number of years and is grateful for its continued contributions.

"Those accessing Willow Place shelter have typically exhausted all other means of support, and without services would face ongoing abuse, including life-threatening situations. In recent years, the COVID pandemic has further highlighted community need, and we are seeing increasing calls for support, as well as more acute needs among those we serve. Operational costs continue to increase, and we rely upon donations to meet many participant needs," says Hadder in an email statement.

"Amid these challenges, the Shoebox Project has consistently found creative ways to provide beautiful gifts and necessities to women residing with us during the holiday season. The Shoebox Project exemplifies positive transformation that is possible when community members join forces to help others. We are immensely grateful for the thoughtful and timely contributions of Alex and her supporters."

Donations can be dropped off at locations all over Winnipeg, including eight Winnipeg Public Library branches—Millennium, Henderson, Louis Riel, Osborne, Pembina Trail, St. James-Assiniboia, Transcona, and Westwood—along with Headingly Library.

The Shoebox Project for Women was founded in 2011 in Toronto, Ontario by the former prime minister, Brian Mulroney's daughter, Caroline Mulroney Lapham, along with her three sisters-in-law, Jessica, Vanessa and Katy. It has since inspired the creation of sister shoebox projects all across Canada.

For more information about The Shoebox Project for Women, visit its website, or email