‘Give a child hope’: Operation Christmas Child aims big in 2023

Operation Christmas Child drop-off coordinator Monica Ens poses for a photo at the Prince Albert Alliance Church drop-off location. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The snow has only just started falling in Prince Albert, but at least one local group is looking ahead to make sure children in need across the world have a Merry Christmas.

Samaritan’s Purse Canada will be collecting shoeboxes full of gifts as part of the Operation Christmas Child. Monica Ens, the drop-off coordinator for the Prince Albert area, said shoeboxes full of gifts have changed the lives of children all over the world.

“It’s totally exciting to be involved in it, just to give a child hope,” Ens said. “It’s an easy step for us to help a child in need. We have so much here, and kids across the world really have nothing, so they get a paper or pencils, something that just brings joy to their life.”

Operation Christmas Child has a new central drop-off location this year: the Prince Albert Alliance Church. In the past, a few local businesses have also served as drop-off locations. Ens said they’re still working to confirm if that will be the case this year.

Ens said they’re hoping to collect 1,500 to 2,000 shoeboxes in the Prince Albert area. Although prices have gone up across Saskatchewan, Ens is hopeful local families will find a way to purchase a few extra gifts.

“To fill a shoebox is probably a little more (expensive) than before,” she said. “Dollar store pencils, paper, lots of stuff is still affordable. Our goal here at our church alone is 200 boxes. If each family does two or three, then it’s a little bit out of your pocket books, but again, the joy that it will bring someone is priceless.”

As part of their 2023 campaign, Operation Christmas Child hopes to increase awareness about what is an appropriate gift. Ens said givers should avoid giving anything association with violence, like toy soldiers. They should also avoid candy, treats, or liquids.

Ens and her husband moved to Spruce Home from Meadow Lake last year. She agreed to become the drop-off coordinator after seeing a notice in her church’s bulletin, and said it’s been a rewarding experience.

Residents can pick up and drop off a shoebox at the Prince Albert Alliance Church. Collection week runs from Nov. 13-19.

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian charity. They first started collecting shoeboxes in 1993. That year, they handed out 28,000 shoeboxes to children in need. In 2023, they expect to hand out more than 2.9 million.