Putting a shoebox together, packed with things to donate to a person experiencing homelessness, is one of my favourite activities to do with the kids in the run up to Christmas. I can remember doing it myself when I was younger, and loved the idea then as much as I do now.
The Sheffield Homeless Shoebox Appeal is well known in the city, and has been inspiring and motivating us all to join in donating our shoeboxes at Christmas time for the past 5 years.
Now that the dust has finally settled on Christmas 2017, SheffGives met with the one woman driving force and creator of the campaign, Kelly Hawley, to find out more and to hear how this year’s campaign went.
How did the appeal start – give us a little history please.
I started the shoebox appeal 5 years ago, just as a small idea for my family and friends. I have a background in working with homeless people, and saw this as a way that we could directly help people, and really make a difference to them at Christmas time. My aim that first year was to get 200 boxes – in the end we collected over 700, and we’ve not looked back since!
We exist simply to ensure that every homeless, vulnerable or socially isolated person receives a gift at Christmas. Our scheme is now across the UK, in 15 locations including Rotherham, Doncaster, Leeds, Manchester and Belfast – all in just 5 years, it’s grown astronomically!
For those who are not familiar with the scheme, which charities do you work with in the city, and how do you organise the donations once they start rolling in?
We work with a whole range of charities in the local area and supported around 35 charities in total this year. Our shoebox categories this year included supporting homeless people, new Mum and babies, elderly people, young people at risk of homelessness and even dogs. Some of our partner charities are Sheffield Foyer, Roundabout, Sunday Centre, Sheffield YWCA, Together Women, Bens Centre, Framework, Sheffield Soup Kitchen….the list is endless!
All donated shoeboxes are checked over and then allocated to a particular charity based on what the charity has advised that their clients are in need of. Organising and checking the donations is something of a logistical nightmare, but we get there every year, with our sanity just about intact! Big Yellow Self Storage are lifesavers, as this is where our donations are stored until its time for charities to receive them and this year we received additional support from Haybrook.
What does the future look like for the scheme?
The Homeless Shoebox Appeal is what we are known for, but we also run one off appeals periodically throughout the year. When charities contact us to ask for help sourcing specific items for clients of theirs, our amazing Facebook community always come up with the goods – they are the lifeblood of our appeals.
We also run an Easter Egg appeal to provide eggs to younger children and teenagers who are experiencing homelessness, and we are currently developing new initiatives to be able to help this group too.
Most exciting of all is that we are about to become a charity ourselves – I can’t tell you much just yet, but watch this space to find out what’s next for us!
And finally, you must have seen hundreds and hundreds of shoeboxes over the years – do any stand out to you?
Yes, one really sticks in my mind; a box for a new Mum and baby. It came as a group of 6 boxes all from the same lady, and these were boot boxes, so really big. The Mum and baby box was packed with absolutely everything a new Mum would need; clothes, bibs, towel, book, cuddly toy, dummies, you name it. The lady had also put a voucher for a day trip in there along with money to cover transport costs, and a lovely card explaining how she had been there as a new Mum with nothing, and wanted to make sure that this new Mum knew that somebody cared about her. That was definitely a memorable one!
And just recently we were contacted by a young lady who had received a box in a previous year with a card that she had kept to this day, which had got her through lots of tough times. Whenever she felt down, and she had periods of feeling very low, she’d read the card which told her that she was loved and needed, and that had made her keep fighting. For a shoebox to do that, it’s pretty special!
What a brilliant and inspirational story of how a campaign that started in Sheffield has grown to reach so many vulnerable people across the UK!
We can’t wait to hear what’s next for you and the appeal, Kelly ❤