Skip to main content

Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Shoebox Project Adapts to Help Rosie’s Place Gift Cards Accepted Through Dec. 7

Nov 27, 2020 09:58AM ● By Grace Allen

Maura Feely Birenbaum, left, dropping off shoeboxes in 2019 to Rosie’s Place volunteers.

The Shoebox Project is looking a little different this year. The annual holiday drive collects festively-wrapped shoeboxes containing small gifts for Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston. But the initiative, like everything else in 2020, has had to pivot because of the pandemic. Instead, donors are asked to purchase $25 gift cards to Walgreen’s, CVS, Old Navy, or Target, said organizer Maura Feeley Birenbaum. The Norfolk resident has been coordinating the drive since 2017. The Shoebox Project was started in Canada in 2011 with a mission to collect and distribute shoeboxes filled with small luxury items to women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. There are now about 80 volunteer-run chapters across North America with the goal of making women in crisis feel valued and cared for. The non-profit organization’s message for these women is “You Are Not Alone.” That message is especially important this holiday season. R. B. Michael Oliver, the Director of Development at Rosie’s Place, says the Norfolk Shoebox Project, now in its fourth year, has helped brighten the holidays for hundreds of women. In the past, the shoeboxes were distributed during the shelter’s annual Christmas party, but this year there will be no party because of coronavirus concerns. Instead, the gift cards will be distributed to guests in both the overnight and day shelters, as well as through the shelter’s food pantry, ensuring the women receive something for themselves during a very difficult time. Oliver said that the pandemic has changed the way Rosie’s Place operates. In early March, the shelter extended indefinitely the usual 21-day stay for overnight guests. None of those women have contracted the virus, he noted. The day shelter is open only to homeless women, and they receive a medical screening upon entering the building. Adhering to social distancing rules, they can access the showers and partake of to-go meals in the dining room. Oliver added that the shelter’s food pantry now serves 250 women each day, twice as many as one year ago. “Rosie’s Place is committed to keeping our doors open to Boston’s most vulnerable women,” he said. “And we are so grateful that Maura and the Shoebox Project choose to stand with us.” Ironically, the pandemic has probably made it easier to donate to the Shoebox Project, says Birenbaum, who noted the drive has collected over 500 shoeboxes since she started the Norfolk chapter. “I think people enjoy putting the shoebox together,” she said. “I know I do. But I think some people will like the ease of dropping off a gift card.” She adds, “I worry that organizations that relied heavily on in-person volunteering might be struggling right now. So I’m really happy that we can still contribute in a way that’s safe and do something for these women. If we think the pandemic has been tough, imagine what they are going through.” Gift cards can be dropped off at Birenbaum’s home by December 7. Email her at [email protected] or [email protected] for the address or with any questions. Along with the gift card, Birenbaum asks donors to include a small note of support, if possible, or enclose the gift card in a holiday card. Envelopes should be unsealed. Direct donations can also be made on the chapter’s website: http://www.shoeboxprojectusa. org/norfolk-county.html. Click on “Make a Donation to our Local Chapter.” The King Philip Leo Club, a service organization at the high school, is helping out with the project by writing notes for any gift cards without them.