The Shoebox Project for Shelters is already at work in Forest Park filling ordinary shoeboxes with items valued at up to $50 to give to women in women’s shelters as a gesture of kindness and a reminder that these women have not been forgotten.

The goal set for our area is, by mid-December, to collect 300 boxes, 100 of which will go to Sarah’s Inn in Oak Park.

The concept, according to information from the Shoebox Project, is to take an ordinary shoebox and decorate the top and bottom separately, so the gift can be inspected before delivery. The box is then to be filled with:

  •  Something warm like mittens, scarf, hat, socks
  •  Something sweet like nut-free chocolates and candy
  •  Body or hand lotion, soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  •  Brush, comb, shampoo, conditioner, hair ties
  •  Nail polish, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick
  •  Purse-sized Kleenex, small cosmetic bag
  •  Journal, pens
  •  Gift cards
  •  El and bus cards

Instructions from the project say to include only new/unused items and not hotel-sized items.

The instructions also tell participants to include a personal message. 

“Women who receive a gift from the Shoebox Project,” organizers say, “are touched by the effort that goes into decorating the shoebox as well as the special cards, messages, and poems contained inside.”

The information from the organizers says that the project began in Canada in 2011 at which time 400 shoeboxes were delivered to residents in four Toronto women’s shelters. It grew to the point where in 2015 the network of volunteers delivered almost 25,000 gifts to women in 134 countries.

A statement from the Shoebox Project organization explained, “For women who have been displaced from their homes and estranged from their families, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time. A shoebox is a reminder that she remains a valued and respected member of her community.”

Laurie Kokenes, director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said that businesses in the village are being encouraged to set out containers in which customers can donate items on the list.

The Shoebox organization requests that shoeboxes be of standard size — not boot or children’s boxes — so that every woman receives a box of the same size.

For more information, contact the area coordinator Emily Leu, at or Rachell Entler at, 7501 W. Harrison St. Forest Park, IL 60130, 708-366-7500. Information can also be obtained at, and Entler can also be contacted as a source of information for businesses.

Drop off locations are the Park District of Forest Park and Bareburger in Chicago.