THIS fall, charitable residents can keep the Christmas spirit alive one shoebox at a time.
Operation Christmas Child is a program that collects toy-filled shoeboxes from Western Canada, ultimately shipping them to impoverished children in Central and South America.
Last year, volunteers throughout the North Shore contributed 2,700 shoeboxes full of socks, toothbrushes, crayons, toy cars, hair ribbons, bracelets and dolls.
Prospective elves can get their hands on the project's signature red and green boxes on Oct. 18. The boxes all need to be collected by Nov. 25.
"North Shore Alliance has sort of been the North Vancouver hub for a few years in a row now because you need a big space to put all these boxes," says Corry Ewens, a former teacher at Ridgeway Annex and longtime volunteer with the program.
This year's goal is to better last year's total, according to Ewens.
"Maybe (we'll get) another church that hasn't done it before or a local business that will do it as their Christmas goodwill project," she says. Schools and private citizens are also invited to lend a hand.
"It's not just the church/Christian thing, it gets out into the community, too. A few years back even the Safeway at Lynn Valley was handing out boxes," Ewens said.
The boxes each come with a pamphlet, and donors are asked to provide toys and other supplies that are appropriate for a toddler, a young child, and the sometimes overlooked pre-teens.
"The young kids always seem to get the most because most people think of (sending gifts to) little toddlers and babies, so they often encourage you to choose an older child," Ewens says. "They specifically say no war toys, because some of them do go to countries where there's conflict."
Each year, Ewens says she watches video of the boxes being delivered.
"They'll show a little video promo of the kids actually receiving boxes in, say, Guatemala or Mexico or somewhere in South America, and it's really cute to see," Ewens says.
The former schoolteacher began volunteering with the program about 20 years ago with her daughters.
"We'd bring three boxes home and we'd go to the dollar stores and to Wal-Mart or Zellers and we'd go and each of the girls would get to pick what would go in their boxes," she says. "It makes you feel like you're doing something for someone else that has less than you do. It's a goodwill thing."