The gymnasium at Stettler Elementary School was loud with the voices of excited children as the annual Operation Christmas Child shoe box stuffing party took place.
The Wednesday, Nov. 16 party took place all afternoon, with students coming in groups to pack shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and other goodies.
Students were stuffing boxes in groups of two, with an older student paired with a younger student. Each pair was able to pack one box, packed for a girl or a boy of various ages.
The boxes are sent around the world to various communities where students are in need. Since the program’s start in the early 1990s, millions of boxes have been packed and shipped, making a difference in the lives of children around the globe.
Julie Weekes is the logistics coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, and helps plan and execute packing parties, and collects the finished boxes. Her area covers all of Stettler County and much of Paintearth County as well.
She was all smiles on Tuesday, as kids excitedly prepared their shoe boxes.
“Today is awesome,” she said, as students streamed to the tables lined with volunteers to finish up their boxes. “We have every student from the elementary school involved today.”
After the boxes are turned in, student volunteers make sure the boxes will stay closed, wrap them with an elastic, and set them aside. Later on in the evening, Weekes and other volunteers go through the boxes one more time, topping off boxes that have too few items, and making sure none are over-stuffed.
The Stettler Alliance Church has acted as the collection point for Stettler and area for several years, replacing Pfeiffer’s House of Music.
Boxes packed by schools are brought to the church, though any person or family can come and pick up a box and pack one themselves. The church can also accept donations for box stuffing parties, as well as financial donations used to help cover any gaps in donations and the cost of shipping the boxes internationally.
How many boxes the schools can pack each year depends on the number of donations sent in by parents and the community, Weekes noted.
“It’s based on the number of donations we get,” she said. “We also get donations from some of the businesses in town.”
Students managed to pack a total of 321 boxes by the end of school day.
Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational Christian relief and development organization founded in 1973.
In addition to its Operation Christmas Child program, which to date has delivered boxes to more than 103 million children, the non-profit runs emergency disaster relief programs, community development and vocational programs, medical projects, and water projects around the globe.