TWENTY-two years ago a father-of-four from North Wales saw the horror of abandoned children in Romanian orphanages on television news and asked friends to help him fill a truck with toys and drive it to Romania.
On December 12 1990 a convoy of vans, driven by local volunteers, left Wrexham Guildhall laden with medical supplies and shoebox presents for the deprived children.
On their return Dave Cooke from Wrexham and the other volunteers vowed to continue their work and Operation Christmas Child (OCC) was born.
Since then the project has spread and now each year thousands of people across the UK fill a shoebox with gifts which they then take to a depot to be taken to needy children around the world.
This year for the first time The Patchwork Traditional Food Company on Llys Parcwr Business Park in Ruthin will be acting as a depot and collecting shoe boxes from kindhearted areas throughout the area.
“We’ve got such a big place here it just made sense,” said Sarah Williams from Patchwork.
“We’ve got a big car park here, so it’ll be easy for people to come and drop the boxes off.
“It’s lovely to know you’re doing something to help those children out there.
“It’s so easy to get here, we’re right by Tesco’s so you can drop a box off after you’ve done your shopping.”
Operation Christmas Child, which is run by Samaritan’s Purse, hopes to deliver its 100 millionth shoebox this Christmas
Over the past 22 years, the scheme has delivered 94 million shoeboxes to children in over 100 countries.
To lift this total to 100 million and beyond, the charity is asking everyone in their communities to use creative ways to reach this target.
Once you’ve decided to fill a shoebox you must first choose whether you’d like it to be for a boy or a girl, and pick an age range from either two to four-years-old, five to nine-years-old or ten to 14-years-old.
You must then fill in a sticker, which can be printed off the Operation Christmas Child website, showing which gender and age group you have selected.
Then all you have to do is fill the box with some gifts such as soft toys, hair clips or a pencil case. There’s some suggestions on the website if you’re stuck for ideas.
Organisers also have a list of ‘no thanks’ items which include food, war related toys and sharp objects.
After you’ve done that all you have to do is take the shoebox to the depot.
From there the boxes will be taken to a processing centre where each shoebox is inspected by a volunteer to check they meet customs requirements.
For the first time this year Operation Christmas Child are will let you know where your shoebox is sent if you donate at least £2.50 online.
“It’s a really good idea to let you track where your box has gone,” said Sarah.
“I’ve got two children who love filling the boxes and every year they look in the pictures to see if they can see their box and now we’ll be able to know where it went.”
The shoeboxes are taken to a range of countries which last year included Kenya, Haiti and Bosnia.
Find out how you can be part of the 100 Million Shoebox Challenge by visiting www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk
for instructions on how to complete a gift-filled shoebox in time for the November 18 deadline.
You can drop your box at Patchwork between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday and between 10am and 5pm on Saturday.
See full story in the Free Press