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Operation Christmas Child gets shoebox gifts in kids’ hands around the world

Annual campaign allows people to put together a shoebox of gifts for a child in a developing country
The collection week for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes is Nov. 13-19. The collection centre is Discovery Community Church where you can pick up and drop off shoeboxes. Photo contributed

Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Project just seems to have the knack of getting the right present into the hands of the right child.

The annual campaign allows people to put together a shoebox of gifts for a child in a developing country.

“The shoebox is a way for joy to be given to a child that’s never had anything,” local Operation Christmas Child coordinator Deana Longland said. “It’s to try and promote that they know that they’re loved and cared for.”

The annual campaign kicks off on Nov. 13 and runs for a week. Participants can acquire a shoebox from a number of locations in town and then bring them to Discovery Community Church (250 10th Ave.) by Nov. 19. Inside the shoeboxes are packed with toys, hygiene items, school supplies and a fun item.

“It’s usually a combination of school supplies and hygiene products,” Longland said. “But then we always promote people put in what we call a ‘wow’ item. And it’s something that’s going to be fun.

“They may not have had the other things that were in the box but they would never dreamed that they would get (something like) a soccer ball.”

Or like one box, Longland recalls, was really light and she was thinking there wasn’t much in it.

“I felt sorry for the little boy that was getting it,” Longland said. “Well, it turned out there was a pair of crocs in it and he had been dreaming of and wanting a pair of crocs but his mom wouldn’t buy them.”

It’s this kind of thing that makes Longland believe the right shoebox often gets to the right child. Longland had another anecdote to illustrate that point. Besides the shoebox distribution, the Samaritan’s Purse often links it with other charitable work one being helping out the Lions Club distribute eyeglasses to people in need. At one of these events, that Longland participated in, there was a man who had travelled 10 hours on a bus to get new glasses. When asked why he travelled so far, he said because he usually reads to people in his village who are sick but he couldn’t read any more. And so he wanted to be able to continue to do that.

“Yeah, so all these great things … come out of the shoeboxes,” Longland said. “There’s just something special about how it all happens and people seem to often receive just exactly what they need.”

The concept was started by a couple from England back in 1990 who wanted to deliver shoebox giftst to children in Bosnia. They did that for two years and an organization called Samaritan’s Purse heard about it and felt it was a worthwhile project to get involved with and eventually took it over. Since then, they’ve gone to 170 countries around the world and deliver 198 million shoeboxes. They partner with local organizations in each country because of their knowledge of the culture and language.

Shoeboxes from western Canada go to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, West Africa and the Philippines.

Last year, 1,178 shoeboxes were collected from northern Vancouver Island – from Campbell River to Port Hardy.

How it works is you get your box, envelope and brochure and you select a boy or a girl in one of three age groups: 2-4; 5-9 or 10-14.

Longland says that one of the least served groups is boys 10-14 so she tries to encourage people to remember that age group.

You can pick up shoeboxes at various churches around town like Christian Life, Vinyard, Ocean Crest, Discovery Community Church and the Dollar Tree also has shoeboxes.

Samaritan’s Purse asks that contributors put $10 in the accompanying envelope to cover shipping costs.

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