Operation Christmas Child works its magic

Tubes of toothpaste are no included in the shoeboxes filled with Christmas goodies received by kids in poor countries every year.

Barb Gustafson

Barb Gustafson

Tubes of toothpaste are no included in the shoeboxes filled with Christmas goodies received by kids in poor countries every year.

That’s because the little ones are so hungry, they eat the toothpaste rather than brush their teeth.

Instead, it’s just the bare necessities, a brush and comb, hygiene supplies, a few toys and school supplies, that brightens a poor kid’s life for the rest of the year, if not the rest of his or her childhood.

“Generally, they only get one box in their lifetime. So this may the only present they ever get,” said Barb Gustafson, in charge of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows branch of Operation Christmas Child.

“For them, it’s such a treasure.”

That word can be used literally because while one child may only receive one shoebox in his or her childhood, 95 per cent of the kids in such countries never even receive a gift box.

The boxes also contain a greeting card from the donors, but no candy, which customs rules prohibit.

The charity held its national collection week in November and now local organizations are sending the boxes into Calgary for shipment overseas to either Nepal, Haiti, or Ukraine.

This year, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows donors sent 4,203 shoeboxes abroad.

“This is a record for Ridge Meadows and I am humbled at the generosity and kindness shown by so many people, churches, organizations, business and hockey teams,” Gustafson said.

Last year, Canadians provided 700,000 gift shoeboxes around the world.

“They are not delivered by Christmas, unfortunately.

“The goal is to have the box in the hands of kids by the end of February.”

Operation Christmas Child is run by the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief agency.