You may not have started your Christmas shopping, but there’s an early-bird option that may also help get you in the spirit of giving, as Operation Christmas Child is in full swing right now.
This week, in fact, the charitable organization is making its annual push for gift-filled shoeboxes that will soon be shipped off to points around the globe in an effort to spread holiday cheer.
“The idea is to bring a special Christmas present to children in these nations that may have never received anything like that before,” said local organizer Gail Martin.
The campaign collects various items such as hygiene products, school supplies, and small toys that are put in a shoebox parcel. The box is then sent overseas to youngsters in developing nations. November 12-18 is go-time, says Martin, noting the kids who receive the parcels often live in war zones or in poor conditions such that they would not otherwise have the chance to get a gift.
“It’s really neat. It gets people in the Christmas spirit,” said Martin. “It’s really fun shopping with children for these shoeboxes, because they love thinking of what kind of things they would like, and they pick them out and put them in the shoebox. They can feel really special about blessing someone so far away.”
Operation Christmas Child, first launched in 1990, is a program of the Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse, which does year-round work on projects such as building schools and clean-water systems in the developing world.
Emmanuel Evangelical Missionary Church is serving as the official collection centre for Operation Christmas Child in the Elmira area. The site expects to see extra traffic this year, as residents who may have brought shoeboxes to the Kitchener warehouse in past years no longer have that option – the new storage and shipping facility is in Woodstock as of this year.
Such logistics aside, the program remains the same as always, notes Martin, adding items for the shoebox can range from the practical – toiletries and school supplies – to the recreational and entertaining.
“It could be almost anything,” said Martin, on potential gift ideas. “We recommend toiletry items like maybe a toothbrush, soap or a washcloth, that kind of thing. You could fit some smaller items of clothing in the shoebox. There are also items like pencils, pencil crayons and little pads of paper because children might not have access to that. Small toys work as well.”
She recommended packing hard candies instead of chocolate, as chocolate tends to melt on the journey overseas. Another idea is to leave a handwritten note in the shoebox for the child to read.
“Sometimes people write back,” said Martin. “So it’s a way of finding out how your shoebox was received and learn a little bit about the family that has benefitted from it.”
Operation Christmas Child provides gifts for children up to age 14 in locations around the world, including the likes of Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone, Gift-givers have the option to target their shoebox towards a specific age range and gender.
“So if you’re shopping with your children and you want to teach them the meaning of the holidays and how good it is to give, they can actually go and pick out a gift for a child their age,” said Martin.
Those interested can use their own shoebox or pick one up at Emmanuel Evangelical Missionary Church. We are currently in the midst of the collection week, which runs from November 12-18. The church office is open from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. during the week and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, contact Gail Martin directly at 519-589-8521 or visit their website.
Participants also have the option of packing a shoebox online.