12/02/2013 03:39 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

The Shoebox Project Shines a Light on Ottawa's Best Side

It's a place with a reputation for cutthroat politics and deep-seated philosophical differences that separate opponents along party lines.

It's a world I saw from an inside perspective growing up in Ottawa when my father, Brian Mulroney, was Prime Minister.

On any given day in Ottawa you can find the private sector focused on doing its thing, the decision makers on Parliament Hill locked in their latest battle, the media preoccupied with the news of the day and the lobbyists working away behind the scenes on their own interests.

But as this holiday season approaches, an amazing thing is pulling all of the various players on and off the Hill together. An initiative that helps women living in shelters across the country is shining a spotlight on Ottawa's best side. This is a cause dear to me and my family members, who helped launch the Shoebox Project for Shelters two years ago and have watched with pride as donors, sponsors and supporters have got behind it and helped turn it into a truly national program.

My sisters-in-law Jessica, Vanessa and Katy Mulroney and I teamed up to create the Shoebox Project for Shelters as a not-for-profit organization in 2011. The Project collects small gift items from donors and passes them along to women living in shelters. The gifts -- body lotions, perfumes, mascara, gift cards and other little luxuries and necessities -- are packaged in shoeboxes, which are decorated with care by donors and volunteers. Each box is valued at approximately $50.

Every now and then if you are fortunate, you get the opportunity to meet someone who really believes in what you do and wants to help make things happen. In my case, Lisa Raitt has been the latest person to step up to make a huge difference.

As if she wasn't busy enough with her role as Minister of Transport and MP for Halton, Minister Raitt reached out to me earlier in the fall after she learned about the Shoebox Project and said she'd like to get involved and do something to help in Ottawa. With her network of friends and connections, it seemed that it took almost no time at all for plans for the Shoebox Project on the Hill to come to life. Minister Raitt and her organizing team are aiming to collect as many boxes as possible to provide gift to women in the 20 women's shelters in the Ottawa area.

Because she's so well respected for her work ethic and her heart on the Hill, Minister Raitt has been able to bring together MPs, political staffers, members of the media and the private sector together behind a common cause, no matter what their political stripes. Her involvement has also triggered generous support from private-sector sponsors and donors who are eager to help women in need in Ottawa and other communities. She's also been able to count on support from her Ottawa friends off the Hill, including ENsight Canada, who are acting as a drop-off location for shoeboxes and collecting donations from their colleagues.

Donors to the Shoebox on the Hill Project can drop them off no later than December 13 at ENsight Canada, 155 Queen Street, Suite 806. In addition to small gift items, we are suggesting this year that donors include a small personal note if they wish -- even a short message of good will can speak volumes to recipients.

Like the best gifts, the value of the packages provided to women through this initiative truly is in the generosity and thought behind them. Each woman who receives a gift box understands that someone took the time and effort to remember her -- that she is special, regardless of her circumstances.

The Shoebox Project has certainly struck a chord with Canadians. This holiday season, we will brighten the lives of approximately 4,000 women in more than two dozen towns and cities across the country -- about 10 times the number of gift boxes we delivered during our first holiday season two seasons ago.

I am extremely grateful to Minister Raitt for reaching out to me this fall and offering to organize the Shoebox Project on the Hill. I know from firsthand experience how busy people are in Ottawa and understand how many commitments they've got on their time, especially as we head into the holidays. The fact that so many on and around the Hill are eager to help make the holidays special for women who can benefit from the kindness of strangers is a great show of confidence in the program.

I appreciate the support of Jacquie LaRocque and her team at ENsight Canada and all of their friends in the government relations community and media for pulling together and showing that Ottawa has fantastic holiday spirit.

Many women will have a much brighter and happier time over the holidays thanks to Ottawa's kindness. The momentum begun by Minister Raitt and the Shoebox Project on the Hill is something our Ottawa team can build on in the future.

Stay tuned for a big thank you later to the many sponsors who have got on board to make the first Shoebox Project on the Hill such a big success.

More information about the Shoebox Project for Shelters is available at


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