The Shoebox Project to Aid Rosie’s Place

Grace Allen
Drive set for November 1 to December 1
(l to r) Katie Amoro of Rosie’s Place, with Norfolk residents Maura Birenbaum and Joan Marsden last December.
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

For the second year in a row, the Shoebox Project will attempt to make the holidays a little brighter for the guests of Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston. The Shoebox Project collects and distributes shoeboxes filled with gifts to women who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
The local initiative, spearheaded by Norfolk resident Maura Feeley Birenbaum, was started in Canada in 2011 and has since spread to chapters in 15 states and many cities across North America. The Shoebox Project is a 501©3 non-profit organization whose message for women in crisis is “You Are Not Alone.”
Last year, Birenbaum’s goal was to collect 100 shoeboxes but she surpassed that amount and received 139.
“It was our first year and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Birenbaum. “It was amazing.”
Birenbaum says her goal this year is to collect 200 shoeboxes.
Participants fill a festively-wrapped shoebox with about $50 worth of small luxury items to make a woman feel special and cared for. Suggested items include scarves, gloves or mittens; chocolate; body or hand lotion; toothpaste and toothbrushes; combs and brushes; shampoo and conditioner; makeup and nail polish; and gift cards to coffee shops or movies.
Organizers stress that the small gifts be high quality to differentiate them from the usual donations received by shelters.
The shoebox and its cover must be wrapped separately so the boxes can be checked for prohibited items like razors, candles, or used goods. Birenbaum suggests pre-decorated boxes, which can be purchased at stores like the Christmas Tree Shop, as an option since last year some participants struggled with the gift wrapping.
Last December, the shoeboxes were distributed during the annual Christmas party at Rosie’s Place. Michele Chausse, the Director of Communications for Rosie’s Place, said the shelter was most appreciative of the gift drive, which helped supplement other gifts at the party.
“At Rosie’s Place we strive to make each day a little better for the poor and homeless women we serve,” Chausse said. “This is especially important to us at holiday time, as a gift from us may be the only present our guests will receive. That’s why we’re so grateful for Maura Birenbaum and the Shoebox Project. Their generous donation of so many brightly-wrapped shoeboxes filled with items our guests love really makes a difference in our ability to make the holidays brighter for more than 800 women.”
Birenbaum said the Shoebox Project helps her impress on her children how volunteering can make a difference in the lives of others.
“We all live this crazy-paced lifestyle and I want to be a role model for them,” she explained. “Not everyone is as lucky as we are here. Even just doing something small like this is a way to give back and impress on them that no matter how busy you are you can still make time for others.”
To participate in the Shoebox Project, drop off completed boxes to the Town Clerk’s office in Norfolk by December 1. At Local Town Pages press time, Birenbaum was in the process of securing a second drop-off location in Wrentham. Search for the Norfolk Shoebox Project on Facebook for updated information. Email Birenbaum at [email protected] with any questions.
Visit to learn more about the Shoebox Project initiative.