It's time for Coasters to start filling shoeboxes so children in need around the world aren't forgotten this Christmas.
Samaritan's Purse Canada is once again asking people to spend a small portion of their Christmas budget to purchase basic school supplies, hygiene items and a toy or two for a needy child through Operation Christmas Child.
Givers place their items inside a shoebox, and for $7 each, Operation Christmas Child ships the boxes to one of dozens of destinations around the world. In places plagued by war, disease and poverty, children wait for the gifts that will bring them joy and, in many cases, allow them to go to school.
Last year the Sunshine Coast managed to ship 941 filled shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child. Local organizer Martha Schroth received a moving letter from one boy explaining how the gift brought tears to his eyes.
The eleven-year-old boy from Serbia named Nebojsa wrote, "Since I was born this is the best gift I have ever received."
He was especially moved by the gift of school supplies.
"His mother explained that the children in his school made fun of him because he didn't have school supplies during math class and he got an F because he told the teacher he forgot his supplies. The truth was that his family didn't have the money to buy them," Nebojsa's pastor told Schroth. "He held the supplies in his arms for a long time, with tears in his eyes."
Since Operation Christmas Child started in 1993, the effort has delivered more than 94-million shoeboxes to children like Nebojsa. This year Samaritan's Purse wants to top the 100-million mark.
"To reach that goal, we are asking Canadians from coast to coast to pack shoe boxes during the next few weeks," said Fred Weiss, executive director of Samaritan's Purse Canada. "Together, we can use the power of a simple gift to touch the hearts of children and improve their lives."
Operation Christmas Child allows givers to choose what age and gender of child they want to pack a shoebox for and then guidelines are given to ensure kids get a variety of fun and useful things.
The person packing the shoebox is free to give what they like within those guidelines, but certain items are prohibited and could result in a shoebox not reaching a child. Due to customs regulations, do not include toothpaste, food or any chewy, crumbly or soft candy, liquids or items that could leak, melt, freeze or break, playing cards, toy knives or guns or anything that could scare or harm a child.
Empty shoeboxes can be picked up at a number of churches on the Coast as well as from Gibsons Building Supplies in Gibsons and Sechelt, IGA Marketplace in Gibsons and Curves in Gibsons.
Full boxes must be returned by Nov. 10 to Calvary Baptist Church at 711 Park Rd. in Gibsons to ensure they reach their destination by Christmas.
Givers can purchase a plastic shoebox to use instead of the cardboard ones provided, but Schroth notes it must be good quality.
Samaritan's Purse Canada also offers an on-line way to give. Through www.samaritanspurse.ca you can virtually pack a box, complete with a hand-picked gift, for around $40.
© Coast Reporter