Student launches Shoebox Project to help women in need

Annabelle Rayson, 13, is coordinating the Sarnia Shoebox Project, along with her mom, Stephanie Lobsinger. Submitted Photo.

Tara Jeffrey

Two of Annabelle Rayson’s favourite things are Christmas, and giving back.

So it’s no surprise the bright 13-year-old has taken on a project aimed at distributing holiday gifts to those in need.

“My main goal in life is to help as many people as I can,” said the St. Anne’s student and new coordinator of the Sarnia Shoebox Project, which collects and distributes gifts packaged in shoeboxes to women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

She actually came up with the idea while working as a legislative page at Queen’s Park earlier this year.

“I like to research the MPPs that I’m working for,” said Rayson, who, while working this past summer, learned that Attorney General Caroline Mulroney was one of the founders of the Shoebox Project in 2011 along with her sisters-in-law.

“So I found her in the hallway one day and asked her more about it.”

Rayson decided to launch a Shoebox Project campaign through the social justice committee at her school.

The initiative has about 80 volunteer-run local chapters across North America. The idea is to decorate and fill each box with $50 worth of new items that can enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation for women in need – items like scarves, socks, makeup, lotion, and gift cards.

When Rayson found out there was no local coordinator for Sarnia, she asked her mom, Stephanie Lobsinger, if they could team up and take it on.

“So we’re trying to whip this together in a short time,” said Lobsinger, adding that the mother-daughter pair hopes to collect 80 boxes to distribute through the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre, the Women’s Interval Home, and the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

“Not everyone may be interested in donating a whole box, so we’ll gladly accept individual items,” she said, noting that she’ll host a get together with her helpers to assemble the boxes. “Every little bit helps.”

Drop-off locations include: MPP Bob Bailey’s office, the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club, Fuzion Hair Concepts, Norton Hairstyling, and the Allstate Insurance Agency on Quinn Drive.

“We’ve already heard from a local investor who’s donating 30 boxes, and a group of local doctors who are giving 10 boxes,” said Rayson. “So we’re already halfway there.”

Most importantly, she said, each box must include a hand written note for the woman who receives it.

“That’s my favourite part,” said the youngster. “Every woman will read an inspiring message to uplift them, and remind them that everything is going to be OK.”

For more information, email sarnia@shoeboxproject.com or visit The Sarnia Shoebox Project on Facebook.