Jefferson Award Winner Founded Project GlimmerBy Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) This week’s Jefferson Award winner is inspiring women and girls to believe in themselves — and it starts with a simple gift and a special message.

Sonja Hoel Perkins founded Project Glimmer seven years ago, and since then, the nonprofit has given away more than 250,000 gifts to women and girls in the Bay Area and nationwide.

“Our mission is to inspire at-risk girls and women to believe in themselves by letting them know that somebody cares,” she explained.

From its warehouse in San Francisco’s Dogpatch, Project Glimmer collects new or gently used donations from individuals and businesses and distributes them to other nonprofits.

Volunteer Mika Henderson received gift bags as a teenager, when her family couldn’t afford Christmas presents for everyone.

“It made me feel glad that somebody cared that I got a gift,” she recalled. She now volunteers for Project Glimmer: “It gave me an inspiration to help more people.”

Not only does Perkins inspire confidence and self-esteem in women and girls, she also invests in their leadership.  As a venture capitalist, she founded Broadway Angels seven years ago.  It’s an investment group that’s supported 50 businesses, more than half of them founded by women.

One of them is Rocksbox, a membership-based jewelry shopping service.  CEO Meaghan Rose calls Perkins a role model.

“Whatever she does, she just does it with brilliance and energy and passion and drive,” Rose said.

And now, Rocksbox gives back, donating boxes of fashion jewelry to Project Glimmer each year to support Perkins’ message:

“When she believes in herself, she can change the world,” Perkins said of women. “She really can.”

So for inspiring women through gifts and business investments, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Sonja Hoel Perkins.

Right now, Project Glimmer has more donations that it can package, so it needs more volunteers. You can sign up on the website. If you operate a non-profit, you can also use the site to request gifts.