Operation Christmas Child helped Canadians fill more than 490,000 shoeboxes with gifts for children in West Africa and Central America. (Photo by Frank King, Samaritan’s Purse Canada)

Operation Christmas Child helped Canadians fill more than 490,000 shoeboxes with gifts for children in West Africa and Central America. (Photo by Frank King, Samaritan’s Purse Canada)

Operation Christmas Child uses shoe boxes to spread cheer

Operation Christmas Child is once again ready to help those in need around the world.

The annual initiative by Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization, last year alone helped Canadians fill more than 490,000 shoe boxes with gifts for children in West Africa and Central America.

National shoe box collection runs from Nov. 16 to 22 and there are five local drop-off locations: Crossroads Church (Red Deer), Olds First Baptist Church (Olds), Alliance Community Church (Sylvan Lake), Stettler Alliance Church (Stettler) and Wolf Creek Community Church (Lacombe).

Residents can use their own shoe boxes, or buy clear plastic boxes and fill them. Due to COVID-19 protocols, shoe boxes may not be available at drop-off locations.

Toys, school supplies, non-liquid hygiene items, accessories and crafts can be included in the box.

The organization is asking for a $10 donation to help cover shipping costs to make sure the item makes it to the children in need.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and distributed more than 177 million shoe box gifts in more than 100 countries.

“Every shoe box gift is an opportunity to share God’s love with so many searching for hope,” said Randy Crosson, director of Operation Christmas Child.

“These simple gifts are a tangible way to remind children that they are not alone or forgotten.”