Operation Christmas Child is back in Strathmore! The initiative is spread out through local churches, community groups, schools, and businesses in Strathmore, who pack shoeboxes that will be sent across the globe to children in need. This year the National Collection Week will be held between November 14 – 20.

A small purchase at a dollar store here in Canada can impact the life of an underprivileged child overseas.

Emmy Mckirgan, Media Relations Volunteer for Strathmore and Wheatland Area, spoke of the impact this initiative has for children who are victims of war, poverty, natural disease, famine, and many other issues all over the world. Operation Christmas Child steps in with a lot of disaster relief and different things.

"Specifically with Operation Christmas Child and the shoebox program, they step in, and that might be the only present they ever receive or have ever received, and it's just a way to show that no matter what, there are people around the world that care about them."

In addition to boxes from Strathmore and Wheatland County being sent to areas in Africa and Latin America this year, the Philippines and Ukraine have also been added to the list of countries where children will be receiving these boxes.

Mckirgan explains that to get involved, you can pick up a box from a participating business or church in town and that the hope is to build on what was collected last year. 

"Anything over 1000 or 1500 would be amazing, that would be quite a jump though, so we would really need to get a lot of people on board. Last year we pretty much doubled what we got the year prior. So last year we had over 700 boxes and that was from the Strathmore and Wheatland area." 

Each one of the boxes comes with a brochure that has a guide explaining what can be packed in the boxes. Mckirgan noted that there are a few items that are prohibited, for example, violent games and materials and some liquids.

In Strathmore, shoeboxes can be found at Home Hardware, Value Drug Mart, Rocky's Bakery, Strathmore Sobeys, Lil Hoots, Maggie's Nest, and the Dollar Tree. Participating churches include the Strathmore Alliance Church (drop-off location), Hope Community Covenant Church, and Strathmore Full Gospel Church. 

For anyone that may not be able to get out to pick up a box, Mckirgan explained there is a secondary option.

"If you can't pick up a box whether it's due to time, whether they're elderly, whatever the reason might be, they can actually just go online and pack a box so you still get to pick the items that you want and what age group you want, if it's for a boy or girl, basically you can just do it with the click of a mouse."

Operation Christmas Child is an annual initiative of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization that works in more than 100 countries. Last year, Canadians filled more than 413,875 and globally 10.9 million shoeboxes with gifts that shared God’s love and hope with struggling children in West Africa and Central America.

Mckirgan also noted there are other ways to get involved during the course of the year, "There are numerous ways to join with Operation Christmas Child including year-round volunteering for various roles. If interested contact Marianne Klassen at 403-934-3453. It’s an amazing experience to join in the fun while doing it for a worthwhile cause."

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and distributed more than 187 million shoebox gifts in over 100 countries. You can also use the online shoebox option at PackABox.ca.

For more details visit Operation Christmas Child here. 

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