We are a non-profit service organization with an ongoing program for the collection and distribution of personal hygiene kits to the homeless and working poor.
Shoebox Ministry was conceived in October of 1988 in an effort to make a difference in the lives of the local homeless population, which numbered 8,000 to 10,000 men, women and children. There were several agencies that provided meals, temporary shelter, medical assistance and even job placement. There were no agencies that were able to provide the necessary personal hygiene products to allow proper grooming for job interviews, self-esteem and personal comfort. Homeless shelters and agencies, whether they were government or nonprofit, did not have sufficient funding to provide these necessities. My concept was to ask the general public to donate these items so that packed in shoe boxes, these kits could be distributed through the shelters and agencies that had direct contact with the homeless. I felt that the agencies could best monitor the distribution to insure the kits reached those who most needed them and not be sold for drugs or alcohol.
Our grass roots efforts of 1988 have now been duplicated over and over throughout the Valley and around the country. We have grown from 30 toiletry kits a month to over 10,500 per year from just the initial group. We are no longer able to track what these other groups are doing annually as we have grown and spread rapidly. Unfortunately, the homeless population in the Valley now exceeds 13,000 and we feel an urgent need to increase our efforts to meet this need.
We have added several new programs such as annual sock drives, underwear drives, household items, diapers and formula as well as many other used items that we distribute to the shelters at no cost. We work closely with over 80 shelters and have done this without ever losing focus of our initial goal to provide toiletries. Local residents, churches and civic groups contribute a majority of the toiletries. A thank you from one recipient called it “love-in-a-box”. In our 20th year I still consider Shoebox Ministry a grass roots effort that has continually increased it’s response to an ever-increasing need. I am grateful to all who have become a part of this vision.