Today, The Shoebox Project for Shelters is active in 252 communities across the United States and Canada. Below, she talks about how her upbringing impacted her desire to give back and what makes The Shoebox Project special.
How did your father’s role as Prime Minister of Canada impact your desire to give back?
It created the foundation for my understanding of how people should behave in their communities. I watched as my father dedicated part of his life to implementing his vision for what Canada and Canadians needed for the future. His public service inspired me then and it continues to inspire me. As a child and a teenager, I got the chance to travel across the country and meet so many people, and I learned that despite our differences, we are all the same.
What inspired you to start The Shoebox Project for Shelters?
The idea of giving gifts in shoeboxes to women living in shelters came from my sister-in-law Jessica, whose mother had started a similar initiative with her friends in Montreal. Jessica suggested we do the same thing for a shelter in Toronto, and the project just took off!
I loved the idea from the start because it provides a very easy, hands-on way of giving back. It gave me a chance to feel more connected to my community, and especially to people with whom I would not likely come into contact naturally in my daily life.
Also, at the time, my children were very young and this was an opportunity to teach them about both the issue of homelessness and the experience of giving back.They have been making Shoeboxes and delivering them to shelters every year since, and I think it has provided them with a broader understanding of our community and has helped foster empathy and compassion for people in need.