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Deadline for Operation Christmas Child donations nears

Rocky View County residents who are looking to spread a little holiday spirit this year have a few more weeks to put together a shoebox full of goodies to be sent to children in developing countries around the world with Operation Christmas Child.
Happy holiday
A group of Costa Rican schoolgirls open the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes they received from Canada.

Rocky View County residents who are looking to spread a little holiday spirit this year have a few more weeks to put together a shoebox full of goodies to be sent to children in developing countries around the world with Operation Christmas Child. “Each year, approximately 11 million children around the world receive shoeboxes provided by generous people in Canada, the United States, England, Australia and a couple of other countries,” said Frank King, news media relations manager with Samaritan’s Purse Canada, which has been running the program for the past 25 years. “Last year alone, about 615,000 children received shoeboxes packed in Canada.” To participate in the international effort, individuals must first procure a shoebox. According to King, this doesn't need to be the official red-and-green shoebox provided by Operation Christmas Child through its church partners. Old shoeboxes around the house or shoebox-sized plastic box purchased from a store is also accepted – and the plastic box can be a gift in itself as the family who receives it can use it again and again in the home. “[Participants] can put in as many things as they can fit into an average-sized shoebox,” King said, but added the organization does encourage participants to include several specific items that are much-needed for children growing up in countries like Senegal, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Haiti. “I was in Senegal a few years ago, helping to distribute shoeboxes, and I found out there are children there who brush their teeth with sticks of wood – they don’t have toothbrushes, and their parents can’t afford to buy them.” King said participants are always asked to put a few toothbrushes in each box, so the child who receives it can share the toothbrushes with their siblings or parents. Another commonly-requested item is school supplies. According to King, while the education system is free for young students in these developing countries, they are required to bring their own supplies – and often, this financial barrier prevents them from attending classes. “Many children simply do not get to go to school, because their parents can’t afford to buy them paper, pencils, erasers, sharpeners – things that we Canadians take for granted,” King said. “In some cases, this simple shoebox from Canada is going to allow a child to get an education.” While hand-made items like mittens or dolls are appreciated – and are often included by many seniors’ groups, who spend all year knitting them – King said everything in the box must be new. The packaging can be removed in order to save space within the shoebox and pack in more items, however. “Let’s make sure these children, who mostly have nothing in their lives, when we give them something, it’s something new for them,” he said. “In many cases, these children have never received a gift in their entire lives.” It’s this point that King said makes the program an especially important opportunity for parents to teach their children compassion and empathy. Many Canadian children are fortunate enough to open presents each year for Christmas and their birthdays, and he said getting kids involved with Operation Christmas Child can help them learn to spread that joy around the world. “It’s a way parents can remind their children that their birthdays and Christmas are not just about them – it’s about them helping other children, as well,” he said. “That’s one reason why this program makes so much sense, and why so many Canadians have connected with it so much.” According to King, Samaritan’s Purse sees “excellent participation” each year from generous residents of the greater Calgary area – and he’s hoping this year will be no exception. Participants have until the week of Nov. 12 to 18 to drop off their shoeboxes at a number of locations around the county, including Cochrane's Fireside Dental Clinic, Crossfield Baptist Church and Westlife Church, east of Redwood Meadows. However, interested residents can still participate in the program without dropping off a shoebox during that time period – boxes can be put together through, as well. Once an order has been placed, King said, a volunteer will put together the physical box, complete with a note and photo uploaded by the individual who ordered it online. “It’s a neat way to echo the physical shoebox-packing experience,” he said. To find out more information – like what to pack and what not to pack in a shoebox, or where prepared shoeboxes can be dropped off – visit

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