Operation Christmas Child is hoping residents throughout Leduc County will brighten the holidays for youngsters in developing countries.
Written by Ted Murphy
The annual outreach program by Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization, sees people fill shoeboxes with small gifts that end up in the hands of grateful children in the Third World.
Lorelei Gingrich, a volunteer with the Leduc County chapter of Operation Christmas Child, says participants pick a specific age and gender, and then fill a shoebox with appropriate items, everything from toys, balls and dolls to musical instruments, puzzles and school supplies.
Gingrich says they also encourage people to include a personal note and photo so recipients can see where their box originated.
“These boxes go to kids in need who don’t usually receive anything at all,” she said.
The local chapter collected 2,400 shoeboxes in 2019, a number that dipped to 1,767 last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gingrich isn’t sure how many will be collected this year because some churches, where most of the filled boxes come from, still aren’t holding in-person activities.
“It was awesome and amazing to get that many in a year of COVID,” she said. “It was a difficult kind of year so we were very surprised and thankful for what we received.”
In addition to churches – schools, daycares, businesses and members of the public all support the program.
Those looking to take part can either use a shoebox from home or pick one up at a designated location, and then after filling it with gifts, they can drop it off at a participating site. All boxes will be sent to the Samaritan’s Purse chapter in Calgary before being shipped to either Central America or West Africa.
The program also offers an online option that allows people to fill a shoebox virtually at packabox.ca.
“It’s been around for a couple of years, but online took off big last year,” said Gingrich. “You can sit at your kitchen table and fill a box with your choice of things. It’s really easy and you can do it all right there at home.”
Shoeboxes can be picked up in Leduc at the Co-op and Peace Lutheran Church, in Beaumont at Sobeys, Dollar Tree and Beaumont Community Church, and in Devon at the Devon Library and Devon Alliance, Community and River of Hope churches.
Filled boxes can be dropped off at Peace Lutheran Church in Leduc on Friday, Nov. 19 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Saturday, Nov. 20 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Sunday, Nov. 21 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). They can also be dropped off at Beaumont Community Church on Friday, Nov. 19 (9 a.m. to noon and 1-7 p.m.), and Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20 and 21 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Filled boxes can also be returned to the Devon churches.