Skip to content

Helping children one shoebox at a time

Barrhead Operation Christmas Child organizer hoping to build on record number of shoeboxes last year
Operation Christmas Child 2021 advancer copy
Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child's Albert/Yukon/Northwest Territories Janet Sales-Runnallls poses with Derra and Herb Mantey during the 2019 packing party at the Barrhead Alliance Church.

BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK- Sometimes a small, seemingly insignificant item can make all the difference in a person’s life, especially for a child.

That is what Derra Mantey, one of the local organizers of the Operation Christmas Child campaign, says about Canada’s effort to deliver shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts for needy children in desperate situations around the world does for their recipients.

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a project run by Samaritan’s Purse Canada, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization founded in 1970.

The project fills shoeboxes with Christmas gifts for needy kids in desperate situations around the world. 

Depending on the year and what is going on in the world, Canadian filled boxes can go to various countries around the world. In recent years, Canadian boxes have gone to Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Africa (Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Sierra Leone).

And despite the hardship and uncertainty caused by the pandemic Barrhead area residents packed a record 912 shoeboxes.

"It always amazes me how generous the people in Barrhead are," she said, adding the number doesn't include the number of boxes people packed online.

OPC is a project run by Samaritan’s Purse Canada, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people in need. 

OCC recommends toys and other small gifts such as dolls, soccer balls (with needle and pump), stuffed animals and musical instruments. Other popular items include school supplies, pens, crayons, notebooks, colouring books as well as clothing and basic hygiene items (ie. toothbrushes, combs and bar soap). 

Restricted items include foodstuffs, such as hard candy and anything liquid such as toothpaste and shampoo. War toys are also not allowed.

OCC also asks people to include a minimum $10 donation in each box to help with shipping costs.

For the last several years, Mantey said they have been fortunate to have a group of knitters, crocheters and quilters, making everything from mittens, scarves, toques and T-shirts to woollen and cloth dolls.

"Even in what we would consider warm countries, it can get cold at nights or in mountainous regions, so hats, scarves, mittens and slippers are appreciated and accepted," Mantey said. "We also encourage people to personal note or letter and a picture of your family. The children who receive it appreciate knowing who sent the box and that someone in another country cares for them."

Where to pick up shoeboxes

In Barrhead, boxes are available at Everyday Values, Barb’s Sewing and Your Dollar Store With More. Once filled, they can also be dropped off at the same locations during collection week (Nov. 15-21) during their regular business hours.

During collection week, the Barrhead Alliance Church, which is the collection centre, will be open Nov. 16 to Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to noon and on Nov. 20 from noon to 3 p.m.

In Westlock, the Gospel Chapel is the collection centre. Drop-off hours Monday through Friday are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about OCC, how to pack or physical your online shoebox, visit For those wishing to donate knitted and other homemade items, call Herb and Derra Mantey at 780-674-4630.

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
Read more