Provide a special holiday gift for a local woman in need

Provide a special holiday gift for a local woman in need

Local coordinator of The Shoebox Project, Mary McVeigh, hopes members of the community will consider donating a shoebox filled with goodies, to be given to a member of the community in-need this holiday season. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

CUMBERLAND – The holiday season can be a difficult and lonely time of year, particularly for women who have been displaced from their homes or are estranged from their families. Reducing feelings of isolation and providing a sense of peace and happiness to women at-risk is one of the main objectives of The Shoebox Project for Women, a nonprofit organization collecting and distributing gift-filled shoeboxes for women impacted by or at risk of homelessness.

Filled with items made to help women feel special, the gift is a reminder to women in need that their community has not forgotten them. Each filled and decorated shoebox is valued at $50 and includes a variety of items to help enhance the self-esteem of the recipient.

Cumberland resident Mary McVeigh is the coordinator for northern Rhode Island, bringing the nonprofit to the state for the first time last year. There are Shoebox Project chapters in 15 other states across the country. Locally, the state’s chapter partners with Crossroads Rhode Island on the project.

McVeigh, who collected about 70 boxes for the women served by Crossroads last year, hopes to do more this year with the help of community members, who are encouraged to make their own box and drop it at the Red Inc Salon & Color Workshop, 3450 Mendon Road in Cumberland, by Dec. 12. The boxes will be delivered to Crossroads the following week, in time for Christmas.

So what goes into a shoebox?

• Practical gifts and tools for self-care, such as lotion, hair ties, makeup, nail polish, sleep masks, a cosmetic bag or other beauty products

• Something fun, including playing cards, a blank journal, books to read or adult coloring books and crayons

• Sweet treats such as chocolate and nut-free candy

• Cozy socks, a warm hat or winter gloves/mittens

• Other “stocking stuffers” such as gift cards or accessories

Donors are also encouraged to include a personal note for the recipient, sharing words of encouragement and support or well wishes.

“We encourage people to put the box together like they would if it were a gift for a loved one,” McVeigh said. “It’s about providing a real gift for the holidays, not someone’s leftovers.”

For that reason, the Shoebox Project does not accept used items or samples such as hotel shampoo bottles. Alcohol and mouthwash are prohibited, and candles are discouraged because many shelters do not allow flammable items. McVeigh also discourages people from including personal hygiene/feminine products, or items that are sensitive to size.

“Scarves are great because they’re one-size-fits-all,” she said. The kinds of toiletries that are preferred are nice perfumes, scented lotions, bath bombs and spa kits – the sort of gift you’d give someone you care about – rather than toothpaste or deodorant.

“Anything to make them feel pretty and loved,” McVeigh said. “It’s about making women feel pretty and loved around the holidays, when they otherwise might not have that, over and above the basic needs that they’d receive in the shelter.”

Most importantly, McVeigh said including a little personal note of encouragement goes a long way.

People can aid The Shoebox Project’s mission by assembling their own box, donating an item for a box or a roll of wrapping paper, or making an in-kind donation. Another option is to host a “shoebox party” where participants each bring a few items.

“I don’t expect the boxes to be perfect,” McVeigh said. “It’s my job to make sure that all of the boxes are equal quality when they are delivered.”

To make a shoebox, decorate it by wrapping the top and bottom of the box separately, fill your shoebox with items totaling roughly $50 in value, write an inspirational message, special card or poem for the recipient, share a photo of the finished box using the hashtag #ShoeboxProject, and drop off the shoebox at Red Inc Salon in Cumberland.

For more information on The Shoebox Project and how to help, visit