As the Christmas season draws near, opportunities abound to reach out to the less fortunate. One way is by donating to Operation Christmas Child, an international program that delivers toys, school supplies, candy and gifts to children in Third World countries.
Run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that has provided spiritual and physical aid around the world since 1970, the program involves filling shoebox-sized containers with items purchased locally for a boy or girl in the 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14 age ranges.
Over 430 were shipped from the Creston Valley last year, said Glad Tidings Pente-costal Church Pastor Carl Sawler, who organizes the collection of shoeboxes for the life-altering program.
“If you’ve never seen a child light up and smile in a country torn apart by earthquakes and floods — they are so happy,” he said. “They’ve never received anything before.”
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1990, and to date has distributed over 86 million shoebox gifts worldwide. Last year, Canadians filled 640, 714 boxes, and the goal this year is to gather more than 750,000.
Creston Valley residents have been donating to the program for over 10 years. Sawler said his family usually puts together five boxes, and will do even more this year.
“This year, we decided we’re not doing gifts to the kids — we’re putting donations in the shoeboxes, and we’re purchasing goats and chickens in countries where you’re able to purchase those through Samaritan’s Purse,” he said. “We all decided together to do something for the less fortunate. We’ve got so much here compared to what other places have.”
Operation Christmas Child boxes (which come with a pamphlet outlining packing suggestions and instructions) can be picked up at Creston Card and Stationery, Your Dollar Store With More, Fields or Glad Tidings (2416 Cedar St.), and must be dropped off at Glad Tidings on or before Nov. 21. After that, they will be shipped to Samaritan’s Purse in Calgary, then sent on to 12-20 countries in South America, West Africa and the Caribbean.
By participating, Sawler hopes that others will experience the same joy he has with the project.
“I find it a great joy in being partners with the shoeboxes, and giving to kids being helped,” he said.
For more information, contact Sawler at 250-428-7418.