Residents in the Stettler, Castor, Forestburg and Bashaw areas showed holiday spirit as a record 1,250 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child were collected at Stettler Alliance Church for needy children in Central America.
“This year, we collected 1,247 shoeboxes,” said Christy Brennan, the collection co-ordinator in Stettler. “It’s amazing, it shows great support and response from the community.”
This year’s count far surpassed last year’s figure of 901.
While the church inadvertently received a double order of 1,200 boxes from Samaritan’s Purse, this seemed the drive the region-wide communities even more to reach this mark.
“I guess it was meant to be,” said Brennan.
The response seems to grow and grow from the wider community.
“For a community to double its donation is two years is awesome,” said lead pastor Scott Whitford.
“This is a concerted effort of all everyone in the Stettler region and communities beyond, such as Castor, Forestburg and Bashaw.”
“This has really taken off — it’s about sending as many boxes from this region.”
Local shoeboxes will be distributed by Samaritan’s Purse to children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Paraguay, Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
“Many of the children who receive a shoebox are given the first gift they have ever received,” said Brennan.
As the regional collection depot, the Stettler church collected from various churches and schools.
“It’s great to instill a giving attitude into our children,” said Brennan.
“It was good to be able to go into the schools and let the students know that they were sending their love and care in these shoeboxes to children less fortunate than they are and its really warms their hearts,“ said Brennan.
Whitford specially acknowledged Brennan and Julie Weekes for their effort and energy to encourage so many people to participate and make this the best year yet in this region for Operation Christmas Child.
Now, he wants to see this effort and attitude expand.
“I would like this to grow into a year-round effort where people think and buy for the shoeboxes not just at Christmas, so we can pack more shoeboxes,” said Whitford.
“I usually start thinking about buying for shoeboxes just after Christmas and usually buy something for the boxes and sales throughout the year,” said Brennan.
Shoeboxes were collected from several community groups:
Stettler Elementary School — 200.
Stettler Middle School — 100.
William E. Hay Composite High School — 196.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stettler — 46.
Freedom Christian Fellowship in Stettler — 17.
Heritage House (Stettler long-term care residents) — 16.
Erskine Evangelical Free Church — 70.
Erskine School — 62.
Donalda School — 16.
Botha School — 29.
Big Valley Evangelical Free Church — 50.
Byemoor School — 48.
Castor Evangelical Missionary Church — 60.
Forestburg School — 75.
Mecca Glen School in Bashaw — 50.