Volunteer Ken Hastings is helping to promote an early start to this year’s Operation Christmas Child campaign, with a Nov. 19 deadline to collect all of these shoeboxes filled with age-specific gifts for boys or girls in 13 countries. The boxes are available at most schools and churches, and a variety of local businesses. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Including today, there are 46 days left to make Christmas happen for underprivileged children around the world.
Nov. 19 is the deadline to fill a semi trailer in Lloydminster with cartons of shoeboxes filled with gifts for children in countries served by Operation Christmas Child.
That’s why volunteers are out rallying early support for this year’s drive to equal or surpass the 3,299 shoeboxes filled by participants in the Lloydminster area last year.
“The shoeboxes have arrived, and in the first part of October they will be appearing in various stores,” said Ken Hastings, who is heading the drive with Len and Shelley Hyatt.
“This is a great time to do some shopping; some stores are marking down some items, so some people might get some pretty good buys for shoeboxes.”
Empty boxes can be picked up now at Your Dollar Store With More, Verses, Dollar Tree Stores, Spiros Restaurant, Silverwood Toyota, and Safeway.
Shoeboxes are also available from many churches and schools, where the reaction has been exceptional according to Hastings.
“It’s been a resounding success,” he said.
“Each year, kids look forward to filling one more shoebox; there is great support from teachers and staff.”
The idea is to fill a shoebox with age-specific gifts for a boy or girl, such as toys, school supplies, and solid hygiene items like toothbrushes.
Collection week is from Nov. 13-19 at locations including Verses, Safeway, Dollar Tree West, Spiros, Silverwood Toyota, and Southridge Church.
“We take those shoeboxes and send them to Calgary, and from there, they are shipped to 13 different countries in Central America, Africa and Ukraine,” said Hasting.
The gifts are distributed at Christmastime or early in the New Year.
“I can assure you when the shoeboxes arrive, it’s Christmas day for that village,” said Hastings.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, which has provided gifts to more than 145 million children in more than 100 countries since 1993.
Hastings is one of several local volunteers who has handed out shoeboxes in other countries, and can tell students and teachers what their shoebox gifts mean to recipients.
“I can share first-hand stories of what a toothbrush or a stuffed animal means to that child and the family,” said Hastings.
He recalls talking with two young girls of a family in a remote part of Costa Rica who showed him their colouring book with everything drawn in black and white as they had no crayons.
That same year, he said they were able to deliver shoeboxes to that family and their girls Claudia and Diana.
“I was in that village a year later, and when the youngest girl Diana saw me, she ran back into her bedroom and brought back a single page from her colouring book, but it was coloured in vivid colour,” said Hastings.
He said it goes to show that shoeboxes with simple items like crayons give children a chance to colour in the same colours that they dream.
Hastings has been involved in Operation Christmas Child since1995, and says it’s because it’s something simple he can do to help others.
“I think it has a significant benefit for not only the family and child that receives the shoebox, but it also feels good inside when you do something like that,” he said, pointing to his heart.
Hastings also leads teams of volunteers for Samaritan’s Purse to other countries to hand out shoeboxes or to carry out community development projects, or more recently, to lead medicine teams.
“Samaritan’s Purse looks around the world for people who are already doing very good things and they walk along side them and say ‘how can we partner with you,’” said Hastings.