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Volunteers Transform 51,000 Shoeboxes to Help Those in Need

One person’s empty shoebox is another’s blank canvas. When they are decorated and filled with essential items, shoeboxes can help people who are struggling feel special. That’s the idea behind United Way of Greater Atlanta’s hugely successful annual Shoebox Project, which invites volunteers from throughout the city to decorate, fill and donate shoeboxes.

What started as a simple idea from United Way’s women’s group, completed in a couple of weeks the first year, has grown into a community supported movement. This year, the 10th Annual Greater Atlanta Shoebox Project engaged 2,000 volunteers from 13 counties to decorate and fill more than 50,000 shoeboxes with hygiene products, such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, and more.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Depend, United Way was able increase its marketing efforts, hire more warehouse workers, secure more volunteer space – and greatly exceed expectations for the project. Depend supported the Shoebox Project as part of its national initiative to promote active, healthy and independent living throughout an individual’s life with a focus on volunteering. United Way of Greater Atlanta was one of 10 United Ways selected to partner with Depend on a series of volunteer events.

More than 140 nonprofits applied to be recipients of the shoeboxes to provide to their clients. In turn, approximately 51,220 people were impacted: homeless men, women and children; and women and children who are victims of domestic violence. All told, volunteers gave 6,000 hours of their time, for an estimated value of $135,000!

One shoebox recipient said, “This is such a difficult time for me and to think that someone took the time to decorate this box and fill it with things like toothpaste…I just feel so special. Thank you!”  This news report includes another recipient talking about what the shoeboxes mean to her.

Next time you are about to toss that shoebox, think twice. With a little glue and imagination, you can make it in to something special and fill it with all sorts of things that people need. Your local United Way can help you find the right place to donate your gift and connect you to similar volunteer projects.