Six weeks remain before Christmas, but Emmanuel Evangelical Missionary Church in Elmira is already in full on holiday mode, as a pick-up and drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child.
The church is providing shoeboxes for anyone interested in filling them with gifts for a child overseas. You can also drop off completed boxes and Kiwanis Transit will take them to the warehouse in Kitchener to be shipped. You can use your own shoeboxes as well.
Gail Martin is organizing it for the second year at the church and is encouraging residents to get cracking because collection week is Nov. 14-19.
“The shoeboxes themselves are intended for children in developing nations who would not otherwise get a gift this year,” Martin said.
Some gift suggestions are toys (dolls, soccer balls with needle and pump, stuffed animals, socks, hair clips, cars, musical instruments, puzzles and jump ropes), school supplies (pencils, pens, crayons, pencil crayons, notebooks colouring books), non-liquid hygiene items (toothbrushes, bar soap, washcloths, combs, and a personal note and photo.
“If something could leak or melt don’t put it in. Chocolate’s a bad idea, liquid shampoo, anything like that. And actually they will get removed before they get sent overseas anyway. Each box is inspected,” Martin explained.
Also don’t include anything breakable, food, candy, toothpaste, cash, decks of playing cards or items that could scare or harm a child, like war-related toys, knives or toy guns.
You can choose to send the box to a boy or girl and for a specific age range.
“That’s a really great thing for families because if you’ve got three little ones at home and you’re trying to show them what Christmas is about, the giving aspect of it, they can pick gifts out for someone their age. People sometimes put notes in there and sometimes they get letters back,” Martin said.
Some people also make teacher boxes. You can get a Rubbermaid container that’s reusable and keeps things dry and fill it with supplies for a school teacher.
People are also asked to include a $7 donation with the box to assist in shipping costs, but the donation is not necessary.
Items that are not sent overseas are often sent to local charities like women’s shelters. Everything gets used as long as it’s something that’s appropriate.
Last year in Canada, 730,577 gift-filled shoeboxes were collected out of a total 11 million worldwide. Operation Christmas Child distributes shoebox gifts to more than 100 countries. Shoeboxes will be sent to Haiti, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Ukraine, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.
Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritan’s Purse.
“Samaritan’s Purse is active in these nations year-round and they do development work, so they can do things like provide clean water for a village or help build a school,” Martin explained.
She says it’s easy to include items for a shoebox as part of your regular shopping or take your kids with you to pick out items for a child their age.
“If we can do stuff like this and think of other people at this time of year, people who are less fortunate than ourselves that’s a good thing to do,” Martin said.
Last year they put together about 200 shoeboxes and she’s hoping they’ll up it to more than 300 this time around.
“It’s just a really great way to add meaning to your Christmas,” Martin said.
The church is open during the week 12-3 p.m. to pick up supplies and drop off shoeboxes. The church is also open on Wednesday evenings. Collection week is Nov. 14-19. On Nov. 19 Martin will be at the church from 9-12 p.m. as the last time shoeboxes can be dropped up, unless they pop by the church during church service on Nov. 20.