About Us

The Organization

The Shoebox Project for Women was founded in 2011, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by four sisters-in-law: Jessica, Caroline, Vanessa and Katy Mulroney. The family had noticed that there were many opportunities to provide gifts to children experiencing homelessness during the holiday season, but there were no such gift drives for their mothers. Wanting to make the holiday season a little brighter for some local women in their community,  they decided to ask friends and acquaintances to fill a Shoebox with gifts for the holidays – some little luxuries that would bring a smile to any woman's face . ​That first holiday season, their goal was to collect 156 Shoeboxes; just enough to serve the women living at one Toronto family shelter. By word of mouth and the power of social media, they ended up receiving 400 Shoeboxes that year - enough gifts for women accessing  four local shelters. Donors also started spontaneously including notes of support and encouragement in their Shoeboxes, which were especially appreciated by their recipients. The Mulroney sisters quickly realized that their modest little "Shoebox Project" had legs, and a national movement was officially born.

Our Mission

To uplift and empower women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness through in-kind support, education and community participation.

Our Vision

To foster equitable communities where all women are seen, valued, and treated with dignity and compassion.

Our Approach

  1. Through volunteer-led gift drives that benefit women who are impacted by homelessness, we build compassionate and connected communities

  2. By distributing essentials of daily living to shelters and community agencies, we support women and gender-diverse people facing income inequality.

  3. By building awareness and educating youth, we challenge stigmas, fight discrimination, and promote equity.

Who We Serve

We continually strive to promote equity and inclusion through our gift drives. Though our primary focus is on working with local shelters, we deliver gifts and other in-kind donations to any community service agency that serves womxn who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Shelters serving families; individuals who identify as women, transgender or non-binary; seniors; youth; refugees; adults living with disabilities; pregnant and parenting youth; and more

  • Immigrant, refugee & newcomer welcome programs

  • Community health centres

  • Indigenous friendship centres

  • Food & clothing banks

  • Supportive & transitional housing programs

  • Homeless outreach services and drop-ins

  • Employment support services

  • Mental health and addiction services

  • First Nations reserves

The Shoebox Project is, and has always been, an unaffiliated, non-religious charity that celebrates diversity, stands firmly against racism and challenges oppression in all its forms.

A note on gender: When we use the term women, we are using it in an inclusive manner and are mindful of the diverse and intersecting identities of the people who access our services.

Our Staff

Lesley Hendry

Executive Director

Woman wearing small rectangular black-rimmed glasses and long blonde hair smiling.
Karen Paget

Volunteer Manager

Woman with shoulder-length brown curly hair smiling.
Naomi Benoist

Executive Assistant

Adriana Reynaga

Communications and Fundraising Coordinator

Edidiong Abba

Administrative Assistant


Board of Directors

Nicole Watts, Head of Government Relations, PayPal Canada

James Albrecht, COO/CFO, Northern Private Capital

Krystal Koo, Head, Sales & Marketing, Dream Unlimited Corp.

Ben Trister, Lawyer (retired)

Shannon Murree, CEO/Founder, Canadian Women's Investment Network

Allie Page, PR, Apple

John-Paul Ricchio, Television Floor Director, Bell Media

Katherine Velan, Luxury Travel Advisor

Tracee Smith, Founder and CEO, Outside Looking In and National Indigenous Youth Awards

Glenn Zujew, Chief People Officer, Klick Health

Impact Reports

2018-19 Report


2017-18 Report


2016-17 Annual Report



For women who have been displaced from their homes and estranged from their families, special occasions can be particularly challenging. Often, women report feeling disconnected from society, invisible and alone.  A Shoebox gift is a powerful reminder for a woman that she has not been forgotten and that she remains a valued and respected member of her community.

For those giving gifts, The Shoebox Project is a tangible and creative opportunity to give back directly to someone in your very own community. It’s a small, simple gesture of kindness that has an immediate, positive impact on the woman who receives it.

An elderly Black woman smiling as she holds up a blue Shoebox gift.
"I received these [Shoeboxes] 3 years ago when I was homeless, penniless and at my lowest. Not only was I living in a shelter but so was my 14 year old daughter. The struggle we faced together is something we will never forget... The card I received with my box was heartfelt and although it was written by a stranger I could feel her genuine kindness... Having been a woman who enjoyed pretty things and having access to the little things, it was extremely hard for me to have to share clothing with my daughter because we had none... When I opened my box and I got things like nail polish, lipstick and accessories, I was so very grateful because I felt somewhat 'normal'. My daughter still remembers the hand lotion and fluffy socks and mini gloves. She summed it up when she said not many people we know will ever know what it's like to have nothing, not even a toothbrush."

- Shoebox Recipient, Ontario

Did you know...

Lack of social connection can be as detrimental to your health as smoking

People who feel connected to others have a stronger immune system, less severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, stronger self-esteem, and may even live longer.*

Lack of personal care items can be a major roadblock to escaping homelessness

When a woman cannot properly care for her hygiene, it can block motivation to find gainful employment, housing and other essential needs. Failure to secure needs often leads to despair and worsens an already poor view of self.**

Access to beauty products can boost self-confidence, which leads to positive outcomes

While lipstick and body lotion might seem like low priorities, having access to beauty products like these can help improve self-worth and confidence. Feeling good about oneself can have a big impact on recovery and toward finding employment and housing.***
* The Compassionate Mind, Seppala. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/the-compassionate-mind
** Mitchell, M. K., Mitchell, M. K., Ramsey, L. R., Ramsey, L. R., Nelson, S., & Nelson, S. (2018). The body image of women at a homeless service center: An analysis of an underrepresented, diverse group. Gender Issues, 35(1), 38-51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-017-9192-y
*** Diblasio, F. A., & Belcher, J. R. (1993). Social work outreach to homeless people and the need to address issues of self-esteem. Health and Social Work, 18(4), 281.

Our Stories

“Being forgotten is something I am used to. People walk by me everyday, and never see me. I am always cold and I always feel alone. Going to EXT Youth Hub, is one of the only places that I go (where) I feel welcome and safe. Today, when I waked into Exit, I was met with bright smiles, and handed a beautiful box. As I opened it, feeling the love with each corner that is beautifully wrapped, I gasped. Today I get to feel beautiful. Today I am seen. Thank you."

- Shoebox Recipient, Calgary AB

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“Women are not always valued or celebrated in their home countries. Your gifts did both and made them feel very special. Your Shoeboxes helped make their first Christmas in Canada memorable”.

- Toronto Community Hostel, Toronto, ON

Impact Reports

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Without the support of our generous corporate sponsors, The Shoebox Project would never be where we are today, touching the lives of more and more women impacted by homelessness each year. We'd like to thank these incredibly supportive companies for helping us bring communities together through empathy, kindness and compassion.

Klick Health logo
Our national sponsor

Thank you to these generous In-Kind Donors who have supported us

Contact Us

Have a question? Drop us a line by emailing us or using the form below.




The Shoebox Project
108-1485 Dupont Street
​Toronto, ON M6P 3S2
(Entrance to Building: 300 Campbell Ave.)

The Shoebox Project head office is located on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.
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