Annabelle Rayson hopes this year’s Shoebox Project is her biggest yet.
“It’s the least I can do to spread a little holiday magic and support these women,” the Grade 11 student said of her fourth annual Sarnia Shoebox Holiday Drive, which invites the community to fill shoeboxes with small luxury items for delivery to women in need.
“I really believe that no one deserves to be forgotten during the holidays.”
The registered charity invites volunteers to decorate and fill each box with $50 worth of gifts and essentials to enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation for women in need. Items can include scarves, socks, makeup, lotion, and gift cards. Each comes with a motivational, hand-written card, and is delivered to shelters and agencies across the community.
Rayson was a 13-year-old in elementary school when she coordinated the first Sarnia Shoebox with help from her mother Stephanie Lobsinger.
Last year, 275 boxes were delivered to the Women’s Interval Home, Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre, Inn of the Good Shepherd, The Haven, The Hub, the Lambton Mental Wellness Centre and the Sarnia Brain Injury Association.
This year, Rayson’s goal is 300 boxes. She has a good head start thanks to Shell Canada, where 125 boxes are being assembled and wrapped.
Members of the community are encouraged to fill a standard-sized, decorated shoebox with $50 worth of goods, along with a warm greeting or message of support. Individual gift cards can also be dropped off until Dec. 10.
Drop-off locations include the office of MPP Bob Bailey, the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club, Fuzion Hair Concepts, and Norton Hairstyling.
Other sponsors include Nova, Dow, Pembina, TransCanada Pipelines, the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland and Burt’s Bees.
“Last year we learned that 70 to 80 women were staying in hotels,” Rayson said of the Sarnia’s growing homelessness crisis. “So we were able to buy a warm blanket to give to each of them.”