Although the grass is still green, the brilliant colors of autumn can be seen everywhere, it is time to sip on homemade apple-cider as you wind your way through tables filled with thousands of toys, clothing and hygiene items, flip-flops and books, at the Landmark Shoebox Store.
Ina Reimer, a volunteer with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) notes their shoebox store is really full this year after all her shopping trips, that they have everything needed to put together a shoebox times 2,000.
“I mean, I'm always excited. I'm excited every time I go into a store, and I find good deals and I know that this is going to be something that's great for a shoebox. The other day, I found a bunch of really cute dolls. They were $3 apiece, and to find a doll for $3 is pretty difficult in the first place and so, she (the doll) got buckled up beside me and I put the rest of them at the back and I thought, one of you (the doll) has to have a special seat because I had to keep looking at it. I was like in awe of finding these African American dolls that had little cute runners on a little ballerina outfit, and for $3! So, what could I want more than something that was inexpensive, applicable to the countries I was sending them to, and I knew God had sent me there.”
Reimer says the manager at that particular store had noticed she was gathering the dolls and offered to help find more dolls. “So, we rounded up every doll in the store that was there. It's always interesting because I get an opportunity, when I go into stores, to talk to people about OCC Shoeboxes, especially when they don't know about it, I get that opportunity. So that's marvelous.”
Reimer has been with OCC for many years, she tells us why.
"The opportunities that we get, just to be able to bring shoe boxes of hope to kids, especially nowadays with Ukraine and the Philippines and many African countries where there's so much war and turmoil, it's an opportunity we have not only to bless them with a shoe box but bring them hope and it’s amazing to be able to do that.”
This year OCC Shoeboxes will be distributed to children in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Senegal. Reimer continues,
“We are still sending them to the Philippines and we're very happy about that. We realize that a large portion of Canadian citizens have arrived from the Philippines, and we are so happy to be able to bless their country. Ukraine. So much need in Ukraine and we're glad to be one of the countries that is being a sender to aid to the kids in Ukraine, to Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Gambia, you name it, there's probably many other countries that you might be wondering about.”
Reimer notes that there are 5 sending countries around the world including Canada, Germany and Australia.
She also advises that OCC is no longer able to send your shoebox to a specific country.
“It used to be that we could, but it's really difficult in Calgary, when they're going through the warehouse to keep that separate, and to pull it off the line every time there's a box that says “Ukraine”. So now we're not labeling anymore, but we do realize, and we have been told by missionaries and others. That every season, even in a ‘hot’ country is cold for a couple of weeks.”
"So, you know whether that pair of mittens ends up in a box that's going to a hot or cool country, you don't know. But we do hear story after story about the right thing being in the right box, so we trust the Lord when we send those boxes.”
When asked why someone should consider putting together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, Reimer tells us a story.
“We just heard from a local representative, who was telling us how in Nicaragua, the lead for Samaritan’s Purse was called in to see the President of the country. He was really shaken up about this, because he really felt like OCC was going to be shut down. So, he got himself dressed the best you can to go see a president, and he sat trembling in the office, and as the door opened, he stood to attention and saw the entourage of all sorts of people around the President, of course. Well, he walked up to him, and the President stuck his hand out to shake his hand. He wasn't quite sure what he was getting congratulated for or if this was something else.”
“What he heard was, that the President had been tracking OCC’s operations for the last six years. And at this point, he's still thinking “I'm in big trouble”. But the President continued, “In the last six years, as I've been following you, we have also been tracking what's been happening as far as vandalism and other kinds of issues and the rate of crime and vandalism has gone down by 74% because of your being in these areas. So, we want to give you a Key to the City.”
Reimer says, the President of Nicaragua believed that because of OCC, the crime rate had dropped in his country. He had noticed and permitted OCC to continue handing out shoeboxes. She says, nearly every country where OCC shoeboxes are delivered.
So, when it comes to putting the shoeboxes together, Reimer notes make sure all the items in the box are safe, not war-related toys. She encourages creativity and including a personal touch, like a family photo and to always include a note to the child.
Reimer says, for people who are not able to put a shoebox together, they can call the Landmark Shoebox Store and buy one of their pre-made boxes. OCC volunteers put together boxes with $25 of age-appropriate items, with payment options of eTransfer, debit, credit and cash.
Landmark Shoebox store hours are Tuesdays 3:30pm to 8:30pm and on Saturday’s 10:30am to 2:30pm. Booking a Shoebox packing parties is also welcome.
“We have lots of days in between which we try to fill with bookings. So, let's say you have a business that you own, or a group that you would like to share a special Christmas outing with, well, you can phone Lori at 204-355-4272 and she will make a booking for you. She's got a whole bunch of openings available. “
The Landmark Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Store is located in the basement of the Landmark Christian Fellowship, 172 Main Street. You can also purchase a shoebox online at samaritanspurse.ca.
The Landmark Shoebox store is also the main drop-off point for all OCC shoeboxes in the southeast. Collection week is November 13 to 19.
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