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Shoebox Project provides comfort and support to women seeking shelter from violence

'My nine-year-old daughter said she would like to add a hug to the box. I said if we do this right, when the woman opens up the shoebox, she'll feel like she's getting a hug' Erin Roberts, Shoebox Project volunteer

Women staying at the Nipissing Transition House in North Bay have been given the gift of comfort and support, through the "Shoebox Project' thanks to the women and their daughters of 22 Wing CFB North Bay.

Thirty shoeboxes filled with personal items were delivered to the Transition House to let the women there, know they are being thought of during this difficult time in their lives.

Erin Roberts, who works for the Department of National Defence in Ottawa, and is a volunteer with The Shoebox Project, brought the idea to North Bay. 

"The project helps women in shelters. It's really about giving the gift of comfort in a box. These women are going through hard times. It's a nice gift to open up and maybe replace some of the things they left behind at home. It's just something to make them smile and feel special and appreciated, and know that someone is thinking of them," explained Roberts.  

"Wouldn't it be great if the Transition House had a stockpile of these boxes, so every woman who walks through the doors is greeted with a great pick-me-up."

The Military Family Resource Centre organized a 'Shoebox Project Assembly Party' to wrap and fill the shoeboxes with donated items.  

"When Erin brought the idea from Ottawa, she connected with the Wing Commander here and he put it out to the women of 22 Wing asking if they wanted to be the boots on the ground for this initiative, so we can do it in North Bay for the first time. I thought it would be a good fit with the mission of the Military Family Resource Centre, so we stepped up to help coordinate the event," said Tessa Clermont.   

Roberts said the group followed the gift suggestions listed on the Shoebox Project website.

"You're supposed to give something practical, maybe like a hairbrush, body or hand lotion, cough drops, mitts, a scarf, and maybe something kind of fun. Maybe some nail polish, or a face mask, something like a gift card for some free coffee, a notepad, a journal or a deck of cards. And then, of course, any woman would like a little treat, so there's some nut-free chocolates involved there too."    

The volunteers also wrote inspirational notes to add to the box. 

"I think it's a nice touch, to open up the box and have a note that says 'We're thinking of you', 'You've got this,' 'Here's something to feel good about yourself today,' Just something to make them feel special," said Roberts.

Janine Lafreniere is the Executive Director of the Nipissing Transition House.

The Transition House is a 20-bed shelter for women and children fleeing violence. Open 24 hours a day, it operates a crisis line and provides a transitional housing support worker, outreach worker, family court support and a child and youth advocate.  

"We generally have 20 residents, and they stay anywhere from three to five months," explained Lafreniere.

"This idea is phenomenal. It really, truly shows that somebody cares. Women who come to the shelter generally don't have any comfort items with them. I've had the opportunity to share some of the community generosity quite often with the residents, and it truly does mean the world to them because they're being thought of and somebody cares. This is beautiful. It's a great day," said Lafreniere.

Roberts involved her own three daughters in selecting the items for the shoeboxes they donated. 

"We went to the store and talked about what would make them feel comfortable if they were having a lonely day. So my two older daughters who are 12 and 13 said fuzzy socks, everybody who is having a bad day needs fuzzy socks, and some nail polish and some lipstick. When I asked my nine-year-old daughter what she would want in a box to feel comfortable, she said  'I would like to put a hug in.' So I said if we do this right when the woman opens up the shoebox, she'll feel like she's getting a hug."

There is a presently a vacancy for someone interested in taking charge and volunteering for the organization in North Bay.

Information is available on the Shoebox Project website,