How does your ideal day begin?
Imagine being a kid again. An alarm starts beeping on your bedside table, or perhaps your mom gently shakes you awake. You walk to the bathroom and squeeze a blob of toothpaste on your new Star Wars toothbrush. Your mom makes you take a bath, but it’s not so bad because you got to pick out your shampoo last time you went to the store. You dry off, and your mom drags a comb through your tangled hair and tells you to swipe some balm on your lips—chapped from too many hours running around on the playground in the cold. You get dressed and pull on some clean shocks before flexing your new shoe-tying skills. Now, you’re ready to brave the day ahead.
This, unfortunately, is not everyone’s reality.
For many children across Greater Atlanta, these mornings are standard. They are so regular we consider them routine. However, for many children across our community, days like these are anomalies if they occur at all.
Twelve years ago, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, a women’s leadership group recognized the need to serve the growing population of women and children within the homeless community. They chose to transform donated shoeboxes with beautiful, creative decorations and to fill them with much-needed hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, lotion and more. Today, what began as a simple idea has evolved into a massive effort across the thirteen county footprint that we call Greater Atlanta. Last year, we collected more than 50,000 boxes and served more than 140 agencies that provide services to low-income and homeless women and children, as well as survivors of domestic violence. The time has arrived to double down on our efforts once again.
As Georgia makes up her mind about whether we’re in winter or spring, we at least know that at United Way of Greater Atlanta that March 1st to May 1st is Shoebox season. This is the time to get involved and there are a number of ways to make an impact:
You can host your own Shoebox party. Invite some friends over in the name of philanthropy. Pool your resources together to collect approved toiletry donations and to purchase decorating materials. If you end up with 150 shoeboxes or more, then simply fill out a form to have them collected. Otherwise, feel free to utilize our various county drop-off sites.
You can build a virtual shoebox. If you have roots in the Atlanta community, but you’re unable to be physically present, there is still a way to make a difference. Simply drag and drop the items you would like to donate into the virtual shoebox on our interactive landing page. There’s a minimum donation of $10, but no limit as to the impact that you can have.
You can volunteer in our warehouse. Leverage your resources to collect toiletries however you can and donate the items to United Way. Rather than drop them off at our offices, you can sign up to volunteer in our sorting and distribution warehouse and bring your donations with you. You can save your fellow volunteers time by excluding food, medicine, mouthwash, razors, sewing kits, and used or opened items.
You can spread the word. Tell your friends, families, and peers about the project and share using the hashtag #ShoeboxATL.
A shoebox full of items we take for granted may not seem like much to the casual observer, but it is much more than that to the recipients. It can represent hope and optimism for some, and reassurance for others—knowing that an entire community, made mostly of strangers, is rallying behind you.
Together, we can make sure that all individuals in our community start the day feeling ready to brave the day ahead.