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Bottle drive coming up for annual Christmas shoebox campaign

All money raised from April 1 bottle drive will be going towards Operation Christmas Child
Elizabeth Groff, spokesperson for this years Operation Christmas Child campaign, gives a shoebox to Natalya age 8, in Ukraine last year. (Operation Christmas Child/Special to The News)

A fundraiser will be taking place to raise money to fill shoeboxes at Christmas time with gifts for children in need across the globe.

Barb Gustafson, with the local Operation Christmas Child campaign, is hoping the community will be as generous as in previous years, sharing a story of a campaign spokesperson who received a shoebox when she was a child in the Ukraine, and is now filling her own shoeboxes to give other children hope.

Elizabeth Groff, a Ukrainian native who now lives with her husband in Texas, first received a shoebox at the age of 10. She was living at an orphanage in the Ukraine after fleeing her alcoholic mother with her step sister. When her step sister was reunited with her biological father, Groff was left alone at the orphanage.

“I just remember being so excited about this gift because that was the first gift that I had ever received in my life,” she said.

She remembered that her favorite item in the box was a shiny yellow yo-yo.

“It represented hope. This was the first gift I had ever received. God used that shoebox to say you are not an orphan; you are my daughter. I wasn’t alone.”

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows pack nearly 5,000 shoeboxes for children in need

When Groff was 13 she was adopted by an American family where she grew up. Now she is filling her own shoeboxes for the annual campaign by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief and development organization.

“Being able to receive one and then now being able to deliver one to a Ukrainian child that has been impacted—it’s an incredible opportunity and I’m just so thankful,” she said. adding that receiving a box changed her life.

RELATED: Christian charity kicks off annual shoebox campaign Operation Christmas Child

The Christmas shoebox campaign kicks off in October where individuals, families, churches, business, sports teams, and community groups are invited to pack the boxes with items that could include: toy cars, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up or make sounds with some extra batteries; school supplies like pens, pencils, sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, calculators, colouring books, picture books; non-liquid hygiene items like toothbrushes, bars of soap, combs, washcloths; accessories like T-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights; crafts like hair bows, finger puppets, friendship bracelets; or a personal note and photo of yourself, your family, or your group.

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.

A spring bottle drive is being held Saturday, April 1, 9-2 p..m. at 222 Street and Lougheed Highway, the east side of Ridge Church, with all money going towards Operation Christmas Child.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

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