Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)

Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)

Ridge Meadows-based group collecting empties to bring Christmas cheer

A charity bottle drive will help buy supplies for Operation Christmas Child

Christmas is coming in August.

Operation Christmas Child will host a drive-thru bottle drive in Maple Ridge this August.

The local shoebox campaign organized by Barb Gustafson aims to bring necessities for disadvantaged children, including school supplies, hygiene items, toys and a stuffed animal.

“We would love to have the Ridge Meadows community bring their empties which we will in turn use the money for school supplies and items for the shoebox,” she said.

The group that has volunteers from all over Surrey, Ridge Meadows, Langley and Abbotsford will have the bottle drive at Maple Ridge Baptist Church’s east parking lot on Aug. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year they are also adding another element to the campaign and will be fundraising by selling Krispy Kreme donuts.

The campaign had a first bottle drive in May and received roughly $1,200. The volunteer group was surprised with the amount of empties they collected, according to Gustafson.

There were also some cash donations.

Gustafson added that the volunteers took extra precautions in doing the bottle drive with spacing, gloves, masks due to COVID restrictions.

Despite the pandemic, the shoebox campaign was also able to send the shoeboxes to receiving countries such as West Africa, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua last year. While the usual Operation Christmas Child party didn’t happen, people went door-to-door to give the shoeboxes to needy children.

“I have been on four trips to distribute shoeboxes and each trip is amazing to see the children’s excitement with their gift, probably the only gift they will ever receive,” said Gustafson.

The group worked with a skeleton crew last year to pack shoeboxes. However this year, they will have a larger group of volunteers to help brighten the Christmas season for children. The goal is to pack an estimated 1,800 shoeboxes this fall.

“People have been working very hard all year round to have items ready for packing. We have painted block sets, sewing of stuffies (a lady has done almost 800 stuffies that are adorable), shorts, skirts, dresses, crocheting soap bags, and much more,” she said.

The shoebox drive will start the end of September or the beginning of October.

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, began in 1993. Since then, more than 178 million children in over 160 countries and territories have received shoeboxes, said Gustafson. In 2020, despite COVID, 9,113,853 shoeboxes were packed worldwide, 373,188 of which were from Canada and 4,048 from Ridge Meadows, she said.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to bring some happiness and love into these children’s lives and that they will know they are not forgotten,” she said.

ALSO READ: Local shoeboxes filled with gifts being delivered around the globe

ALSO READ: Thousands of shoeboxes for children in need donated by Maple Ridge residents


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Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)

Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)

Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)

Operation Christmas Child organized their first bottle drive of the year earlier in May this year. (Barbara Gustafson/Special to The News)