Presents for homeless Kippy Lanker-PhotoWhen a Nevada graphics manager saw a Good News Network post in November about a woman in Canada who runs a shoebox project for women in shelters, something in the article stuck with her.

In addition to the usual essentials like soaps, toothbrushes and socks, the project focused on giving items that would make the women feel better about themselves. Some of the “extras” they likely  wouldn’t receive.

“I opened that article in a tab on my browser and kept it there for nearly a month,” said Kippy Spilker of  Carson City. “I kept reading it and thought, ‘Maybe I could do something similar.'”

She decided to fill up as many shoeboxes for the homeless as she could — with a goal of filling 50  boxes for Christmas.

Spilker told a couple friends at work who suggested she open it up for donations from friends and co-workers so they, too, could have a chance to help.

As photos of boxes and items were posted on FB, packages of donations started arriving, even from out of state. People who never even met Spilker sent money via Paypal.

She put together a list of items needed for the boxes, and as people sent in things, she would update the list and answer all the queries for ‘What do you still need?’ Every day she came to work, it felt like Christmas.

“Every day there was something new dropped off at my desk. I would come in to a bag of stuff, or a box of water,” said Spilker, whose husband agreed to forego their own gift-giving so they could put all their time and money into this. “It was just so cool.”

It was one good friend at work who really latched on to her idea of wanting to give “extras.” She brought in some gorgeous Italian scarves that she said she kept getting as gifts from family, but would never wear, and then she brought in lightly-used expensive perfumes, makeup and lotions. So, they put all that stuff (the makeup and hairbrushes and perfumes, etc.) in kind of a “grab box” to feature alongside the shoeboxes.

shoebox project in Nevada Christmas treeThe week before Christmas, her husband, Jeremy Spilker, helped her fill 73 shoeboxes and bring them to Reno’s Tent City, a parking lot near several homeless shelters.

“We brought many other donations that couldn’t fit in boxes, to give to folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas, a little warmth and love,” Spilker wrote in an email to GNN. “We got a lot of hugs and “God Bless You’s and even saw tears.”

“One woman’s reaction was enough to make the whole thing worthwhile. As she was looking through the “extras” box, she was astounded!” exclaimed Spilker, who works on Nevada newspapers owned by Swift Communications. “She kept proclaiming how this was really amazing stuff, and she was telling the people around her where the products came from. Obviously at one point in her life, these things mattered a lot to her.”

“Watching her go through that box, it was really like watching a kid at Christmas. I was glad we could share the shoeboxes with basics (each had a scarf, 2 pairs of socks, soaps, lotions, hand sanitizer, tissues, Christmas chocolates and candy, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, handwarmers, q-tips, bandaids, razors… but it was watching this one woman’s reaction, and knowing the difference we made to her, that really touched me. When she was done, she was almost in tears and came up and gave me the longest, tightest hug.”

“That let me know we made a difference.”
(WATCH the video of the big day – and a ‘Loving Hearts’ meal being served – below)


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