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200 bags sewn by Maple Ridge senior for Operation Christmas Child

90-year-old also crocheted another two hundred soap bags, among other items for children in need

Flora Jenken has been sewing all her life.

The 90-year-old has sewn wedding gowns, graduation dresses, all of her clothes and her daughters clothes – well, until her daughter became a teenager and wanted to buy her own things.

Now the Maple Ridge senior is not only sewing, but crocheting hundreds of items, all year long for children in need worlds away.

Jenken puts all of her efforts into Operation Christmas Child, a program run by the evangelical Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse, that, according to their website, has been providing spiritual and physical aid to people around the world since 1970. Shoe boxes are packed with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and other necessities, and given to children in poor countries across the globe.

This year alone, Jenken has sewn at least two hundred bags with draw strings, big enough to fit the entire contents of the shoe box, and the shoe box itself.

“And brother or sister have their own,” she said emphatically, so they are not jealous of one another.

She has also crocheted an additional two hundred bags to hold soap – which also double as a face cloth.

“I don’t want to go play bingo. I would sooner sit here and sew. Or crochet,” she said.

“I can sit and watch TV and I can crochet as long as I’ve got yarn,” added the senior.

Then from the left over wool, she will make little bags.

“It was sort of my own invention, but I started crocheting little purses, as I call them,” she explained, for jewellery or other small items. She always puts Crayons in them.

In addition Jenken has also made simple sun dresses for the older children and put together paper pads for children to do their math or draw.

Jenken became involved with Operation Christmas Child about two decades ago through her church, Ridge Church, where all shoe boxes filled by local residents end up before they are shipped to Calgary where they are scrutinized by volunteers.

ALSO: Shoe box gifts needed for Operation Christmas Child in Maple Ridge

Flora has been to Calgary twice to help out.

“We don’t seal the boxes, we put rubber bands around them. Because when they get to Calgary, every single box is opened and checked because we must not put in anything liquid and must not put anything breakable. You are thinking of the children,” she said, adding that there can’t be anything to do with gambling, or war related.

Items that are removed from the boxes are donated to charities in Calgary.

And boxes that are not filled entirely, will be topped up before shipping.

Then from there they go worldwide.

RELATED: Once a child in a refugee camp, now a promoter of Operation Christmas Child

Jenken put together two entire shoe boxes herself this year filled with items like Band-Aids, rulers, pencils, and crayons.

This year 5,302 shoe boxes were filled by residents of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, said Barb Gustafson, organizer of the local campaign, and together with shoe boxes from Abbotsford and the Tri-Cities, 6,116 boxes were packed on a semi-truck on Tuesday, Nov. 21, destined for Alberta.

Last year the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows packed 4,642 boxes that were sent to children in Ukraine, Philippines, Central America, and West Africa.

Boxes this year will be going to children in West Africa, Ukraine, the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

Gustafson hopes Jenken’s story inspires other seniors to participate in their annual campaigns.

“Because it keeps them occupied and happy,” she said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or donate can contact Gustafson at 778-881-9794.

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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