Helping less fortunate children at Christmas time

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Airdrie residents can fill shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for less fortunate children in Third World countries, as part of Operation Christmas Child, which is operated under Samaritan’s Purse Canada.

Frank King, news media relations manager with Samaritan’s Purse Canada, said boxes can be dropped off at the processing centre in Calgary, located at 20 Hopewell Way N.E., until 12 p.m. Dec. 8.

“School supplies are particularly useful because even in countries where education is free, in most cases, the kids still have to supply their own paper, pencils,” King said. “And for some families, that means their kids just don’t go to school. So there are situations where the kids open up their shoeboxes, and the toys are great, but when they find the paper and pencils, they’re overjoyed because they get to go to school now.”

Those who are unable to drop off boxes at the processing centre in Calgary can pack them online, he said.

“It’s kind of like shopping at Amazon. You pick your genders and your age range and there’s a basket of goodies that’s designed for that gender and age range and then for a bit of an extra cost, you can add more stuff to that if you want – and then once you’ve finished, you check out, make your payment,” he said. “We get a whole whack of volunteers here at the Calgary processing centre to actually pack the boxes that people did online.”

Each box is packed specifically for girls or boys aged two to four, five to nine or 10 to 14. All boxes are inspected to make sure the contents are acceptable, King said. Some items that aren’t accepted include liquids, toothpaste and candy or chocolate.

The boxes are distributed to children in Costa Rica, Haiti, Senegal and Ukraine, according to King. Boxes packed for children in Ukraine can include items for cold weather, like mittens and toques.

“Every box represents some kind of hope or good news for a child because in many respects, the children who are receiving these boxes have never received a gift in their entire lives,” King said. “One of the things that drives us forward is we know that families and children need hope. They need to know that somebody somewhere cares about the struggles they’re going through.

“So when this box full of stuff comes to them – stuff that we may not necessarily value here in Canada but may be hugely valuable in, say, Senegal or Costa Rica – that’s an amazing thing for them.”

Last year, Canadians packed more than 664,000 shoeboxes for children in Third World countries – 7,000 of which were packed online.

For more information or to pack a shoebox, visit samaritanspurse.ca/occ

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