The shrinking of Trail’s retail economy has impacted local efforts for spreading Christmas cheer.
The closure of the downtown Dollar Store in the Silver City—coupled with a downturn in the economy—contributed to a lower amount of shoeboxes being donated to Operation Christmas Child this year, said organizer Dwayne McDonnell.
Last year Greater Trail residents contributed over 800 boxes to the program—which encourages local people to collect gifts and items assembled in a shoebox for children in third world countries around the globe—but fell over 200 boxes short of that total this year.
McDonnell said the Dollar Store gave out a lot boxes each year and also offered people a 20 per cent discount on items purchased in the store for the boxes.
At the outset of the program in mid October, McDonnell set a goal of 1,000 boxes from Greater Trail.
“I … may have been too optimistic but I think a ‘goal’ should be a challenge to meet,” he said. “So, even though we didn’t reach 1,000 boxes we were able to touch the lives of 600 children in a very personal way.”
The program’s final total ended up with over 600 boxes, boosted with around 50 late drop-offs.
“So I think that in itself was a success,” McDonnell added.
This year Operation Christmas Child will have shoe boxes heading to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela, Paraguay, Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
To be able to do this Greyhound Canada provided free transportation costs to get the boxes to the program’s major collection centre located in Calgary, Alta., where they are checked to make sure everything in the boxes is safe for the children to receive, and then re-boxed for flight.
“If Greyhound did not supply this incredible service this humanitarian effort would not be possible because the costs would sky rocket,” McDonnell explained.
Now that its ninth year of operation is complete, McDonnell said the program has grown increasingly “touching” as more and more young parents pack shoeboxes and take the time to teach their children to think of those who are less fortunate.
The young people who receive the shoeboxes have experienced the worst of sadness, drought, disease, famine, and civil war and have no access to the simple luxuries these shoeboxes provide, he said.
Each shoebox gift is given to children regardless of gender, race, religion or age. When culturally appropriate, copies of a book entitled “The Greatest Gift of All,” which has been translated into 130 different languages, are offered to children after the shoebox has already been distributed.