Children all around the world will be feeling some Christmas joy thanks to donations by generous families, organizations and clubs in Williams Lake.
On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 21, a group of women came together at the Cariboo Bethel Church to make some magic happen. When they first arrived in the hall, 482 bright red and green shoeboxes sat stacked one on top of the other in a massive pile in the corner.
The shoeboxes are labelled with three age categories, and by gender. Inside are toys and pencils, toothbrushes and books. Anything and everything a young child in a developing country might want or need.
Operation Christmas Child is a yearly campaign run by Samaritan’s Purse that sees shoeboxes packed and sent to children in need all over the world. According to Jasmine Alexander, office administrator for the Cariboo Bethel Church, there will be an “emphasis on Ukraine because of the political situation there,” although boxes packed in Canada will also travel to different countries in West Africa, Central America and even to Chile in South America.
Kara Vogt was one of the women who volunteered to help prepare the boxes for their journey overseas. She belongs to a moms group, who meet every Tuesday morning for some sharing, caring, praying, and free childcare.
She said it was an easy decision to volunteer the moms for the task of packing the individual shoeboxes into larger packing boxes for shipping.
“We gather them here, and then they get sent to Calgary to the Samaritan’s Purse warehouse and then they get sent all over the world from there,” she said.
Cariboo Bethel Church put together some of the shoeboxes themselves but, really, it was donations from all over Williams Lake that made it possible to send out 482 parcels of joy on Tuesday morning. Alexander estimates that at least 200 individuals dropped off donations at the church beginning as early as October. They officially stopped collecting on Nov. 17 so they would have time to ship the boxes to Calgary and excited children everywhere would receive their Christmas miracles.
Vogt says that she’s heard first hand what a difference a box full of goodies can make to a child’s life.
“I’ve worked with friends who are from the Philippines and they talk about when the shoeboxes came to their community and what a difference it made,” she notes. “The kids were so excited because they really had nothing and some of the communities that these go to are really destitute communities and it can bring joy and it can bring helpful things also.”
One story that stuck with Vogt, who remembers seeing it in a Samaritan’s Purse video, was that of a young girl who desperately wanted a training bra — something young women growing up in Canada may take for granted. Lo-and-behold, the shoebox this young woman received had a bra in it and she was thrilled.
“I wouldn’t even think of putting that into a shoebox and yet that was exactly what that little girl needed.”
That is why the Cariboo Bethel Church has been involved in collecting for Operation Christmas Child for over 15 years. It’s an opportunity to meet the needs of children and also bring some fun into their lives, especially at a time of year where giving is so important.
“There’s joy in giving and there’s joy in knowing that you are helping somebody and bringing joy to somebody else,” says Vogt. “I just want to give encouragement for people to look around and see who are the people in their lives who could use a little blessing.”