A Gift Box for the Women of Toronto

Last Monday morning, I walked out of the cold wind into the warm glitter of the Bay Adelaide Centre. In the PATH concourse, I saw the familiar YWCA Toronto logo wrapped around a huge, transparent box: the YWCA Toronto Gift Box.

Designed as a public, interactive installation, the Gift Box invites passersby to pause and consider the practical needs of a woman who has fled a violent home with nothing more than her child and her fragile courage. Supported by the Toronto Foundation, the Gift Box project brought together the generous, creative team at Y&R Toronto, YWCA Toronto’s Advocacy and Communications team, Odile Picquet Carpentry, Bay Adelaide Centre’s accommodating staff, volunteers like Woo and Rose, and the 35,000 people who move through the PATH every day.

The Gift Box was unveiled on Monday morning with nothing more than a baby’s crib inside. On the walls of the box, a text-to-donate invitation asked passersby to participate in rebuilding the life of a woman and her child.

Many of you accepted that invitation and during the five days of the installation, your $5 text and cash donations filled the box with “gifts” of diapers, blankets, children’s books, women’s clothing, a hair dryer, a Metropass, a laptop and a cell phone. Every night, we left notes inside the Gift Box thanking you. We thanked Allison B for the “warmer nights”(baby blankets), Maureen A for “keeping her connected” (cell phone) and Marta R for the “peace of mind”(thermometer).

We also handed out 5,000 miniature gift boxes filled with a chocolate and our YWCA Toronto Feminist Superhero buttons. The boxes are printed with information about YWCA Toronto programs and statistics we think will motivate you, including the shelter and housing we provide to over 2,300 women and children, and the employment and training support we offer to over 5,000 women.

Giving to the YWCA Toronto Gift Box represents the hope you and YWCA Toronto can give back to a woman who needs to know she made the right decision to leave a violent relationship.

It’s our commitment to building a better city together; a city where women and girls are safe and the vulnerable are not abandoned.

For participating in the Gift Box project, I’d like to say thank you to the elderly couple who asked many questions and put money in the cash box with a pat on my arm, the elegantly dressed woman who barely broke her stride as she put money in the cash box, and turned to me with a look that told me a piece of her story, and the young man in a parka who stopped to donate generously and thank me for the work we do at YWCA Toronto. And the man and his son, who juggled their soft drinks to get their wallets out, donated, nodded at me, but didn’t say a word – thank you.

Join them in the movement to transform the lives of our city’s women and girls.

Giftbox closeup


You can help a woman who has fled a violent home rebuild her life.

YOUR CELL – Type the word DONATE where you usually type a text message, then punch in 80100 in the phone number field, press SEND and that’s it. Your next phone bill will have an extra $5 charge to reflect the donation. You can do it as many times as you like.

ONLINE – It’s easy and secure to donate online to YWCA Toronto

TALK TO OUR PHILANTHROPY DEPARTMENT – Contact Sarah Morison, Manager Major Gifts and Annual Giving at 416 961-8100 ext. 359 or smorison@ywcatoronto.org

TELL YOUR FRIENDS – Share this blog post to spread the word to friends and family.

STAY CONNECTED: sign up for YWCA Toronto’s e-newsletter, Turning Points. December’s edition: Read about five sisters with an inspiring mother.