It’s time for another round of Operation Christmas Child, the yearly initiative where people are encouraged to pick up a shoebox from participating locations and fill them with gifts for less fortunate children around the world.
“It’s a small step that individuals here can take to fill a shoebox but that initiative explodes when those boxes are opened on the other end and you realize how significant that gift is, the gift being the gifts inside the box, but more importantly the fact that someone here took time to fill a shoebox for a child,” said Ken Hastings, local co-ordinator for Operation Christmas Child.
“And that gives that child maybe a glimpse of hope. It doesn’t necessarily change their situation but that shoebox contains gifts of joy and hope that resonate, sometimes for years afterwards.”
Some of the suggested items the operation looks for are small toys, such as stuffed animals, dolls or Hot Wheels cars, school supplies and non-liquid hygiene items like toothbrushes, bar soap, washcloths and combs. According to Hastings, however, the item that is most celebrated is a picture or a note from the person or groups that filled the shoebox.
Hastings has been on the ground a few times, in person, when the shoeboxes had been delivered and says the impact they have on the children who receive them is hard to put into words.
“It’s overwhelming. I can’t describe the sound of joy that comes from the children as they’re opening their boxes,” he said. “There are just shrieks of joy and shouts of celebration and no children are comparing their toys, what they did or didn’t get with their friends, everyone is just celebrating that everybody got something and it’s always fantastic. You have to be there to experience it.”
Operation Christmas Child has been seeing steady growth in the Lloydminster area and Hastings says last year over 3,500 shoeboxes were filled.
The boxes can be picked up at various schools and churches around town and are also available at Your Dollar Store With More, Verses, the Dollar Tree and Safeway. Once filled, they can be dropped back off at Verses, Safeway or the Southridge Community Church.
Collection week this year is from Nov. 16 to 21. For more information on the operation visit the Samaritan’s Purse website at www.samaritanspurse.ca.
“A shoebox is something that is simple to do,” said Hastings. “It’s a few dollars out of your pocket and a few minutes of your time, yet I’ve personally seen where that gift grows to the point where it can impact that child, possibly for their entire lifetime.”