Anyone can fill a shoebox – even a kid.
Last Thursday, students from Jack Kemp Community School could be seen walking the halls, cradling shoeboxes containing gifts for children miles and miles away from them. Placed at the main office, the boxes formed a stack of over 60, a little more than what the school has donated in previous years.
“It feels good to help kids who’ve been born and had to go see war firsthand ... now, it feels good that we’re giving their country some good stuff that they can play with,” said Grade 5 Jack Kemp student, Braxton Larson. “We put a teddy bear, a bookmark, a book, hard candy, a toothbrush and some cars, I’m pretty sure.”
This is Operation Christmas Child, a program that sees people in well-off countries driving to fill shoeboxes full of gifts for children in less fortunate ones – just in time for the holidays.
“Things like hard wrapped candy, soap, wash clothes, school supplies, toys, anything that is age appropriate,” said Denise Block, targeted skills teacher at Jack Kemp. “In the older groups, we encourage them to put things like small tools, work gloves, because often children in countries that are developing need those in order to help their families.”
This year, all shoeboxes gathered from Canada will go directly to children in South America and the Ukraine. For students at Jack Kemp though, this means more to them than just a friendly donation.
“The kids are really getting excited about it and the students that are promoting it from year to year really have that sense of, ‘I know what I’m doing, I can do this and I’m making a difference,’” said Block.
Each class from Jack Kemp was encouraged to donate two boxes; one for a boy and one for a girl. Inside each box was also a letter and a picture of the class that donated.
Ken Hastings, local co-ordinator for Operation Christmas Child, has seen less fortunate children from around the world receive gifts through the program and said that something extra special happens when a shoebox from one child meets the hands of another.
“It’s even bigger than an instant friendship,” he said. “There’s an instant bond established, that’s why I encourage people and classrooms to put a picture in, because as soon as they see a picture of someone, there’s that immediate connection – that’s the person or the group of the child that cared enough about them to give them some pretty special gifts.”
But it’s not just the kids who are doing it; anyone across the country can pick up a shoebox, fill it up and ship it out to a child in need.
The program began in 1993 and since then, over 100 million children around the world have received gifts through Operation Christmas Child. In the Lloydminster area last year, about 3,300 shoeboxes were filled. But altogether, from Lloyd to Wainwright, Bonnyville and Elk Point, there were 7,700.
“We brought in extra shoeboxes to the Lloydminster area and we’re almost out of those,” said Hastings. With a recommended donation of seven dollars to cover shipping and associated costs, shoeboxes are free and can be picked up at Verses, the dollar store and a number of churches across Lloydminster; however, if shoeboxes run out, Hastings said not to worry; a Tupperware container, an ordinary shoebox or anything of similar size will do.
Shoeboxes can be dropped off at Verses and Southridge Community Church. Up until Nov. 22, they can also be dropped off at Safeway. To donate a box to the Ukraine, a label must be attached, which can be printed off from www.samaritanspurse. ca.
“Mitts, a toque, socks; those are incredible gifts for the Ukraine,” said Hastings.
“We still value every shoebox; one shoebox means one more child gets an incredible gift.”