It was another successful year for the Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift drive.
The Burns Lake Community Church received 599 boxes of items for needy children in African and Central American countries, as Wanda Giesbrecht, coordinator of the shoe box campaign for Burns Lake and the Southside told Lakes District News.
Donors buy and put in the shoe boxes such items as school supplies, toys, toiletries and little tools like measuring tapes, pliers or hammers, according to age and gender, said John Neufeld Pastor at the Burns Lake Community Church.
“Multi-tools can be pretty precious. People are encouraged to put a ‘wow’ item in that would be bigger than the rest, like it could be a larger stuffy animal or a flattened soccer ball with a pump maybe,” Neufeld said with a laugh.
The program is aimed at children aged 2-14.
The shoe box campaign is organized by Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse and the Community Church has been participating in the drive since 2005.
“It’s been going really good. We started maybe with collecting 100. For the community the most we ever had was over 700. Some years it’s in the 500s or 600s,” Neufeld said.
The wider community has been part of the program for more than 20 years.
After the hundreds of boxes leave Burns Lake they pass through a collection facility in Prince George and then onto Calgary which is the western Canadian collection centre for Samaritan’s Purse. Volunteers sort through the boxes and remove certain prohibited items like liquids, candies or toy weapons.
“[For] some kids in some countries if they got a toy gun it could traumatize them,” Neufeld said.
Each shoe box usually also contains a shipping donation of $10 because the boxes eventually go to countries in West Africa and Central and South America.
The pastor encourages donors to include a photo of themselves or their families or to write a little note along with their address.
“One lady in our church has received several responses back. They’re rare but they’re possible. There are stories that we get on DVD that come back from kids who receive them about how their lives have changed. They’re two or three minute stories.”
Neufeld estimates that over the dozen years and out of the thousands of shoe boxes handed over, the Burns Lake community has donated around $180,000 worth of goods for children in developing countries.