Montreal Shoebox Project delivers hope in a box

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WATCH ABOVE: Katherine Velan of the Shoebox Project Montreal drops by Global Morning News to talk to Laura Casella about why it’s important to help homeless women feel valuable – Nov 30, 2016

It’s surprising what can be done with a single shoebox.

While to some, a box filled with toiletries and a few sweet treats and luxuries might not seem like much, to some Montreal-area women living in shelters, it can make a world of difference come holiday time.

“I hope it means that they know they’re thought of and that there’s a little love out there for them,” said Katherine Velan, the woman behind the Shoebox Project.

Every year, Velan and a group of devoted volunteers fill shoe boxes to the brim with items that can be difficult to come by for vulnerable women living on the street or in shelters.

That can include necessities such as 2in1 Shampoo bottles, body washes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, mittens and luxury items like a $5 gift card.

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Velan said they try to keep the value of the boxes at around $50, and have a detailed list on their website of what items can and can not be included.

But that’s not all that’s in the boxes.

It’s that spirit of giving that led to the creation of the Shoebox Project 11 years ago.

“My aunt and her friend were making bags for a shelter that my grandparents had started and we decided to help them,” Velan said. “We needed something to put them in so we put them in shoeboxes.”

The first year, they packed 30 boxes and slowly worked their way up to 1,480 boxes last year.

WATCH BELOW: Holiday shoeboxes full of hope and hugs help Montreal women in need

But with each passing year the demand from Montreal-area shelters grows.

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“This year unfortunately the demand has gone up,” Velan said. “They’ve asked for 1,800.”

Velan’s organization, which has chapters across the country and in the United States, is always looking for more volunteers.

“There are so many ways to get involved,” Velan said. “That’s the nicest thing about this project — it’s all  community.”

Velan suggested hosting a shoebox party as a fun way of getting involved,

“We’re hoping you’ll get your book club together, your friends or your office and make shoe boxes,” she said. “You can deliver them…you can write a cheque.”

To learn more about the organization or if you are interested in volunteering, visit the Shoebox Project online.

This year’s holiday campaign ends Dec. 9.

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