Clock is ticking as reminder goes out for gift-filled shoeboxes

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THERE is just one week left for anyone wanting to hand in gift-filled shoeboxes for one of the UK’s biggest annual children’s charity appeals, writes Mark Entwistle.

November 18 is the final date for gift-packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, which will then distribute them to vulnerable children in over a dozen countries – last year the total number of shoeboxes sent from the UK was over one million.

Operation Christmas Child sends shoeboxes with gifts to children in Belarus, Bosnia, Kenya, Kosova, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Romania, Serbia, Swaziland and Ukraine. It is the biggest annual project run by Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid charity.

This year the charity is asking for a sports item to be included, if possible, as 2012 will see the Olympic Games held in London.

“It’s a busy but brilliant time for us, with donations coming into us from all over, including Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Lauder, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk,” explained Chris Thomson, Borders Regional Manager of Operation Christmas Child this week.

“We’ve a great team of volunteers who are out and about collecting shoeboxes from schools, churches, businesses and organisations or who are checking and packing the shoeboxes in our warehouses at Langholm for onward transportation to their destination.

“This year anyone who goes online to donate the £2.50 contribution we request towards promotion, processing, UK transportation and shipping will be able to print off a barcode slip to put inside their shoebox.

“We will scan this and when the shoebox has entered the distribution system we will send an email to the donor to tell them the country to which their shoebox is going.

“It’s hectic and happy. We get to meet lots of local people – from school pupils to senior citizens – whose kindness makes such a huge difference to the children receiving their shoeboxes.

“Many of the children are in state-run homes, street shelters, orphanages or hospital, or may be living with their families but facing real hardship in their daily lives.

“The smiles we see at this end from those donating the shoeboxes are matched at the other end when the youngsters open their shoebox – it’s a simple way for one person to help another.”

And Mr Thomson had good news for anyone who ends up missing the November 18 deadline.

“While we go all-out to collect the shoeboxes by November 18, I’ve good news for anyone who may have missed the boat.

“After that date we will introduce Shoebox World which allows anyone to log onto our website and pick items to go into a shoebox and pay for these. We then put their selected items into a shoebox and make sure it gets to a needy child overseas.”

For suggestions of what to put in a shoebox check the website www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or contact the Helpline on 0870 011 2002.

The website also has a list of local drop-off points where individuals can hand in their shoebox. Volunteers then check the boxes prior to shipment to be sure they comply with customs requirements and that the contents are suitable for the children receiving them.

Mr Thomson added: “All donors can be sure that their shoebox will be hugely appreciated by the child who receives it – every single shoebox really does make a positive difference.”