KAMLOOPS - Thousands of shoeboxes from Kamloops will help bring joy and a message of hope to less fortunate children around the world as part of Operation Christmas Child.
Volunteers across Canada and throughout many other countries have begun the annual packing and collection of charitable shoeboxes, hopeful they will make a difference in the lives of children. Under the umbrella of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian-based relief organization, empty boxes are available for pickup at various Kamloops locations and are to be filled with toys and other gift items such as school supplies (pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, colouring books etc.), non-liquid hygiene items such as toothbrushes, bar soap, washcloths, combs, as well as a personal note and photo.
The Kamloops shoeboxes will join hundreds of thousands being distributed to children in areas of need. Last year’s recipients included children in Uruguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Costa Rica, Guinea, Haiti, Nicaragua, Chile, Senegal, Ukraine, Iraq, Columbia and Panama. Logistics coordinator Hallie MacDonald, and volunteer Michele Sinclair are hoping to exceed the 2,600 shoeboxes collected in Kamloops in 2014. They are aiming to fill a Big Steel Box which is situated at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (1136, 6th Ave). It’s a simple gesture that brings smiles to children who have been affected by war, poverty, disease, or natural disaster.
Sinclair is urging anyone who packed a box last year to recommend the action to a friend or family member.
“The feeling you get when you pack and give…. is contagious.”
About 20,000 volunteers assist with the Canadian contribution to the campaign each year. The effort was started by a Welshman in 1990 who witnessed the living conditions of Romanian orphans and began delivering gifts. Operation Christmas Child was adopted by Samaritan’s Purse in 1993.
Empty boxes can be picked up at Dollar Tree, Dollar Store With More, and Big O Tire stores in Kamloops, and once filled can be dropped off at B.C. Wildlife Park (and receive one child’s admission pass), as well as Flight Centre, Gord’s Maytag & More, Embellish Esthetic Lounge, Kamloops Hyundai, Lizzie Bits Baby Co., Hub International offices, Art Knapp Garden Centre, and Smith Chevrolet. Drop off sites will also have empty boxes available. During collection week, boxes can also be dropped off at St. Andrew’s Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday through Sunday between noon and 6 p.m.
Donors are asked to place $7 in the form of a cheque (cash is permitted) inside each box (envelopes provided) to help cover the cost of shipping and delivering the gifts. Donations can also be made online at SamaritansPurse.ca.
The website provides additional information about OCC as well as suggestions for group packing parties, church-wide events, schools, teams, and even offices.
OCC reports that more than 124 million shoebox gift packs have been delivered to date, but the need is still great.
The campaign is kicking into high gear as it moves closer to Collection week Nov. 16-22.
Kamloops area logistics coordinator Hallie MacDonald has been involved with the program for about 20 years and even travelled to Senegal in 2014 to witness the distribution in action. She saw rugged classrooms, devoid of desks, and lacking in supplies, yet bursting with eager students.
“You could see through the walls, but they all wanted to be there and wanted to learn. It was an amazing experience,” said MacDonald.
She helps St. Andrew’s in the organizing of packing parties and is known to shop year ‘round for school supplies and other items. Children are invited to contribute something special, along with a photo and a message.
“The letters and pictures are a big thing,” said Sinclair. “It lets the kids know there is a real person at the other end.”
Sinclair travelled with a daughter to see the charity in action in Costa Rica. The trip has had a lasting impact on her family.
Ruth Coxson has coordinated shoebox efforts for some 20 years at the Free Methodist Centennial Chapel in Brocklehurst. She is amazed at the congregation’s commitment and notes that some members are outstanding. Sherry Hamblyn crochets hundreds of small toys for the boxes, and two families are known for collecting bottles all year to pay for supplies. They are focussed on the recipients.
“The pictures of the children with their shoeboxes really tugs at your heart,” said Coxson.
But it’s not just churches taking part each year. Thompson Rivers University women’s soccer players are planning a packing party and will include local youth soccer players. Gord’s Maytag and the Kamloops firefighters have lent their muscle during collection weeks, and many businesses and community groups participate.
Creativity is encouraged and each box is labelled whether for a boy or a girl, and indicates a general age category. Packers are reminded that new customs rules do not allow the addition of candy, and require that only new items can be enclosed.
Enquiries can be directed to Hallie MacDonald at 250-318-8035 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.