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‘Tis definitely the season as Operation Christmas Child kicks into high gear

Gail Martin will be collecting donations from Nov. 18-22. [Aneta Rebiszewski]

It not only looked a lot like Christmas this week, the holiday spirit of giving was in full swing with the launch of Operation Christmas Child. The charitable initiative that sends supply-filled shoeboxes to kids around the world is in full swing.

The organization is currently looking for people to fill up shoeboxes with items such as hygiene products, school supplies or simply just toys.

“It’s just a way of sharing the blessing of Christmas with children around the world,” said local organizer Gail Martin, who has been helping the cause for some 20 years.

Each shoebox has a different age range for families to choose from and they can even pick if they want to send the box to a girl or a boy. The ages range from 2-4, then 5-9, and 10-14 which makes it more personable when selecting the right gift, says Martin.

While the shoebox can be filled with really anything from toys to supplies, Martin doesn’t recommend items such as chocolate that might melt during the shipping process. But oftentimes families and their children will include notes in the shoebox as a pen pal type of system that can even help bond friendships with kids all over the world.

Many of the children who receive these shoeboxes overseas are in locations like Costa Rica, Guatemala and even Sierra Leone, Martin explained, noting that people have the choice to select the age and gender but not the location the package is sent to.

Many families like to do this with their children to help them gain a deeper meaning of Christmas, she added.

“They can go with their parents to the store pick out items for a child their age and pack a shoebox and fill it with items they might like to get.” Aside from packing things like toys it’s also important to think about the items these children might need including the likes of a hairbrush, toothbrush or even just paper and pencils.

There is also an option to send  teacher boxes intended to be filled with school supplies that will be donated directly to classrooms in developing countries.

“It’s a great way to help children around the world with their learning,” said Martin.

People have no limit on how much they can spend on the items in the box but it is limited to space, notes Martin, who suggests to not over pack a box and rather just create two individual ones. With each box the organization asks for a voluntary donation to help cover the shipping costs.

Operation Christmas Child first started in 1990 as a program of the American organization Samaritan’s Purse, which does year-round work in developing countries including building schools and creating clean-water systems. Since its inception, the organization is known all over the world and there are several drop-off locations all across Canada as well.

If anyone is in need of a shoebox they can stop by Emmanuel Evangelical Missionary Church in Elmira that will provide a shoebox or Martin suggests that people can even fill up Tupperware containers which end up being more durable. The week of November 18-22 will be collection week for any shoeboxes that are filled and ready to be shipped off.

The official collection centre in Elmira for Operation Christmas Child is Emmanuel Missionary Church where shoeboxes can be picked up or dropped off. During the next week the church’s office hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday and additionally the church will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon for any last minute donations. For more information, contact Gail Martin at 519-589-8521 or visit The Samaritans Purse website.

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