Many women love shoes, but Val Saunderson is more interested in the boxes they come in.
This year alone, the Barrhaven resident has collected 1,080 shoeboxes full of personal hygiene products, toys and goodies for delivery to needy children around the world via Operation Christmas Child.
Starting today and until Nov. 10, volunteers like Saunderson can unload the boxes they’ve assembled at more than 1,200 Operation Christmas Child collection centres now open across Canada.
In 2006, Canadians donated 738,079 shoeboxes to the project. And Operation Christmas Child — which is run by Samaritan’s Purse — has been sending them to children in over 90 countries since 1992.
Saunderson learned about the drive 10 years ago through the Metropolitan Bible Church. After a mission trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, she kicked into high gear, spending about $20,000 on supplies per year.
"It touched my heart to see the children and to see how happy they were about their shoeboxes," Saunderson said.
"We have fabulous stories that come out of this," said Diane Zarnke, a volunteer with the collection centre at Barrhaven’s Cedarview Alliance Church.
"It just warms your heart. I think we have so much here. Every little bit we can do for them we should be doing."
Saunderson works on her boxes year round and has collected over 6,000 to date. She’s always hunting for bargains and makes frequent trips to the United States to buy inexpensive things like school supplies for the kits.
She packs each box with the gender and age of the recipient in mind. While every child gets soap and a washcloth, for example, young children also receive a colouring book and crayons in their boxes. Every girl gets a doll and jewelry or a stuffed animal, and the boys get toy cars.
She also decorates each box, with help from her granddaughter, Emily Stimpson, 7.
"It’s a really great thing for children to do," she said. "It’s kids helping kids."