by Stephen Dafoe
Father’s House congregation member Debbie Froese has been a volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse for the past 25 years and will soon be making a trip to Costa Rica to distribute shoeboxes of gifts collected last Christmas for children.
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that has been in existence since 1970. They run the Operation Christmas Child program that has people filling shoeboxes with gift items for children in developing countries. To date, the organization says it has provided assistance to 135 million children.
“What we do is we collect the shoeboxes locally, and then from here they go to Calgary where they get prepared for shipment,” Froese explained. “We then ship them all around the world.”
As a volunteer, Froese has gone overseas three times with Samaritan’s Purse to help distribute the shoeboxes. Over the past quarter century, she has gone to Mexico, Paraguay, and Costa Rica. This fall, she will return to Costa Rica.
She and a fellow volunteer, Cathy England, will depart Oct. 18 from Calgary, returning 10 days later.
On the journey they will be ministering to women in remote areas of Costa Rica as well as handing out the shoe boxes.
“We will actually be visiting two different communities that are only accessible by boat going down the river,” she said.
Froese said the shoebox includes toys, school supplies, clothing, shoes. “Basically, anything your kid would like at that age is what other kids would like,” she said, noting dolls and balls are popular items. “There’s just a huge variety of items you can put in there.”
The longtime volunteer says she has stayed with the organization for so long because she is fascinated with the idea.
“When I started, my children were of age so that I could teach them to give of themselves,” Froese said. “It was a very practical way. We’d pack something that we know some child that never had a toy or a gift would receive it. What was really important was that you put a picture of yourself and your family, and a little note. It’s the first thing those kids look for. I’ve handed out thousands of shoeboxes and it’s the first thing they look for.”
Froese said as her children got older, she stayed with it. She is currently the coordinator of the project locally.
[subhead]Collection campaign coming up
The shoeboxes being distributed now were collected during last year’s campaign. The campaign for next year’s distribution will start up in November, with the organization’s collection week taking place November 12–18.
“It takes a long time to make the arrangements overseas,” Froese said, noting this is why items like candy, toothpaste and other expirable items are not suitable. “We’ll be having a packing party at the cultural centre on November 18th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.”
Drop off locations for this year’s program will be determined closer to the date.