BARRHEAD - When children open their Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoe box from Barrhead, many will see a handmade woollen item inside their box.
That is because of several knitters, crocheters and stitchers who worked tirelessly over the past year to make well over 1,000 items specifically for OCC.
Close to 800 items, most of which came in the form of winterwear items such as toques, scarves, and socks, but also include handmade items such as washcloths and T-shirts, came from the members of the Hillcrest Lodge's knitting club, but also included contributions from Barrhead's Stitchers and Rippers and the Barrhead Lutheran Church's Stitchers Outreach Club along with other interested individuals in the community.
OCC, run by a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization, Samaritan's Purse, delivers shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts for needy children in desperate situations worldwide.
Hillcrest Lodge activity manager Shelley Oswald said during a Nov. 13 celebration party hosted by the senior's facility that the lodge's knitting club members have contributed handmade items to OCC for nearly 20 years.
The lodge's knitting club's activities increased dramatically after Samaritan's Purse asked Canada to provide 20,000 additional shoeboxes packed with cold-weather items for Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country in 2014.
In 2017, due to distribution channel issues, none of Canada's shoeboxes went to Ukraine. However, the country is once again one of the destinations for Canadian shoeboxes.
In an interview with the Barrhead Leader in late October, Derra Mantey, one of the co-organizers of the community's OCC effort through the Alliance Church, said that due to logistic issues due to the Russia-Ukraine war, many of the boxes might have to be re-routed to refugee camps outside the country.
The other countries Canadian shoeboxes visit in 2023-2024 are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and the Philippines.
Oswald said she was concerned that the lodge's knitting club's contribution this year would drop considerably from previous years - not because of a lack of will but due to a lack of wool and yarn.
Oswald added that most of the yarn for the club's OCC efforts comes from donations.
She noted that the way many of the lodge's residents got through the pandemic restrictions was "through their hands", and as such, their stash of yarn, earlier this year, was close to being completely depleted.
However, she said their yarn supply is flush again, thanks to the community's generosity.
Barrhead OCC representative Gail Verheul said she could not overemphasize what the contributions of these handmade items mean to both Samaritan's Purse and those who receive the shoeboxes.
"Thank you to all those who have knitted, crocheted, stitched items for the shoeboxes. What you've done is truly amazing," she said. "When the children open their boxes to find these homemade items, they will be thrilled. It shows the love that you have for them."