‘Tis the season to pack and wrap a shoebox and bring smiles to the faces of needy children around the world.
Operation Christmas Child, an initiative of the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, kicks off this week in Campbell River for another season.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Operation Christmas Child in North America and the 100th million shoe box is expected to be packed and delivered to a child in one of several developing nations.
Campbell Riverites are encouraged to lend a hand and fill a shoe box of their own.
Deana Longland, Campbell River’s shoebox collection coordinator, has spearheaded the initiative for 11 years and is passionate about giving to those with little.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the families have very little chance to give anything to their children. Having a shoebox – often it’s the first time they’ve ever received a gift,” Longland says. “To bring a smile to their face and make them happy, I think that’s why most people do it. You know, our kids have so much and they have nothing.”
This year, all shoeboxes packed in Western Canada will be delivered to children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Paraguay, Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
Recommended gifts for the shoeboxes include small toys, toiletries, school supplies, and books. A special letter from the donor and a photo are also a thrill for the children, Longland says, but what ends up in the box is completely up to the packer.
Boxes can be packed with either a boy or girl in mind, in the age range of two to four-years, five-to-nine-years, or 10-to-14-years.
Longland said often the children who receive a shoebox will also share with the other children in their tiny village.
Longland said a friend who was working on a humanitarian project in remote Ecuador during shoebox deliveries witnessed a young girl unpack her box and set aside some of her gifts to give to others in the village.
“They’re so grateful and they’re so appreciative,” Longland says. “It’s nice they can receive something and sometimes they’re able to share it with other people.”
Canadians have also been generous when it comes to sharing.
Last year, 672,274 shoeboxes were filled in Canada while 8.6 million were collected worldwide and distributed to six continents. This year, locally, Timberline, Carihi and Sandowne schools will be filling shoeboxes to send to children in impoverished countries.
To join the cause and fill a shoebox, simply find an empty box or small plastic container and fill it with a variety of school supplies, toys and hygiene products that will not break, leak or harm a child.
Each shoebox should include a $7 donation enclosed in the box by either cash or cheque to cover project and shipping costs.
Boxes can be dropped off at the Discovery Community Church (former Galaxy Theatre) on 11th Avenue between Nov. 20-25 from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday.
Boxes can also be packed online at samaritanspurse.ca/shoebox