Sometimes a shoe box is more than a shoe box. Sometimes, it can be a lifeline during an emergency.
Local Meals on Wheels organizers have launched a campaign to turn 300 shoeboxes into emergency kits for area senior citizens and homebound residents.
"With Meals on Wheels, we go into the homes of many senior citizens, and I just started thinking about what would happen if there was an emergency and they were trapped in their home with no power," said Stepheine Bellotte, the local Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator.
"So I came up with the idea to pack shoe boxes with things that could provide a little relief to them until help arrived. For instance, each box will have a flashlight in case the lights go out and a whistle that they could blow to help emergency crews locate them."
To bring her vision to life, Bellotte has enlisted the assistance of area schools and businesses.
"When (Bellotte) approaches us about the project, we immediately said ‘Yes,’’’ said Kim Davis, the assistant principal at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School in Gainesville.
"Our fifth-graders just completed their Code Red unit which deals with things like tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters so this project — making emergency kits — fit right in."
So far, fifth-grade students at the school have decorated 20 shoe boxes and are planning to keep working on the project to help Bellotte reach her goal.
The boxes all have been covered in brightly colored paper and bear a custom design created by the individual students.
Lanai Dorsey chose to cover her box in a cheerful shade of orange and to decorate the container in stickers to create a smiley face design.
"Whenever you make something for someone who can’t do things for themselves, you should do something that will make them feel happy," the 11-year-old said about the way she chose to decorate her box.
Each of the emergency kits will include items such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, whistle, bottled water, rain poncho and a small package of tissue.
"These are items that all families should have in a central location in case of an emergency," Bellotte said. "A lot of the senior citizens that we visit with either don’t have a family to look out for them or don’t have a family that plays an active role in their life, so it’s important to us to look out for them."
Bellotte says she will continue collecting decorated shoeboxes and supplies for the emergency kits from interested parties in the community through the beginning of January. The completed emergency kits will be distributed at the end of January.
Donations can be brought to the Meals on Wheels office in the Community Service Center at 430 Prior St. in Gainesville.