Realtors gather goods for holiday season

Royal LePage in Athlone Court collects shoeboxes for shelters

Nici Castellani shows the first of many shoeboxes Royal LePage hopes to donate to the Shoebox Project for Shelters.

Shoeboxes pile up at Royal LePage in Athlone Court this time of year – and that’s how they like it.

The office is one of four of the company’s locations that collects for the Shoebox Project for Shelters.

“This company … it seems like everybody’s giving back in some way,” said Jay Rockwell, managing broker.

They tend to give back all year long, whether individually or through events such as the office pancake breakfast for United Way or 100+ Real Estate Agents Who Care and their corporate charity, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation.

“It’s helping people that need help,” Rockwell said. “It’s for women struggling … in the holidays of course some struggle a little more.”

The Shoebox Project for Shelters collects and distributes the gifts to women homeless or at risk of homelessness in communities across North America.

“Single women raising a child, almost one quarter of them are doing it in poverty,” he said.

A shoebox item can be something that provides warmth and comfort for the winter. The average value of contents in each shoebox is between $30 and $50, though the sky’s the limit. Shoebox items may be shuffled, as shelter and transition house staff ensure boxes are evenly filled and contain no unsafe items.

“The shoebox is something special these women can’t buy themselves, and makes them feel loved,” said Linda Ferguson, who organizes the Vancouver Island Shoebox Project. She hopes to gather 1,500 shoeboxes to distribute throughout Greater Victoria over the Christmas season, surpassing last year’s 1,168 shoeboxes.

“This is something you wouldn’t mind receiving yourself,” Rockwell said. “It’s like a stocking really.”

Now in its fourth year, the program runs until Dec. 17. Decorate a standard-sized empty shoebox, leaving it free to open. Consider lining it with tissue for a polished look, then fill with items such as such as mitts, scarves, hats, socks, lip balm, as well as feminine things such as nail polish, earrings, lipstick and lip gloss. Avoid including delicate items likely to be broken in transit and ensure the lid still fits properly. Then write an inspirational message to the woman who receive your gift from The Shoebox Project.

Shoeboxes should not include used goods, hotel samples, mouthwash, candles, foundations, hand-sanitizer, perfume, razors, books or anything unpackaged. However, Royal LePage Oak Bay does collect some of those items, hotel samples and gently used items for Burdett House. They also welcome warm outer wear – hats, scarves, gloves and coats – for Our Place Society.

Royal LePage, on the second floor of Athlone Court, is open for drop-off Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Visit www.shoeboxproject.com/victoria.html to learn more about the program and find other drop off locations.