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For the 27th year, Operation Christmas Child works its magic in Canby to spread joy throughout the world

It's not even Thanksgiving and people are collecting Christmas gifts?

Indeed, for the past 27 years during the third week of November, Operation Christmas Child's Canby connection has collected shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for children. These are shared across the globe at orphanages, schools, churches and community centers.

This year, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to give a child joy will still happen, and local folks are doing their part to contribute.

COURTESY PHOTO: SUSAN BUCK - Each shoebox contains a 'wow' toy, school supplies and hygiene items. Givers are encouraged to add a personal note.

Canby Alliance Church (900 N. Juniper St.) serves as a drop-off location and already this season has taken in more than 1,500 shoeboxes from people like Heidi Gorka, whose Tualatin High School students put together and donated dozens of gifts, and church groups like Ohana Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canby, that shop year-round, raise money to cover shipping costs, and then spend days assembling presents, culminating this year in a donation of over 1,200 shoeboxes. But just as important are the individual gifts put together by individuals or families.

"We often see parents or grandparents helping children collect and pack a box for a child (that is) their child's same age," said Susan Buck, Canby team leader. "I did it with my own family to start off the holiday season focusing on giving."

COURTESY PHOTO: SUSAN BUCK - Boxes are sorted by gender and age. Here, Ohana Church sets up assembly lines to facilitate packing thousands of gifts.

Having been involved for more than 20 years, Buck has packed a lot of boxes with her children, and now her granddaughters help, too. Some favorite items she includes are soccer balls (with a pump and extra needles) because kids of all ages love to play, and stuffed animals because the cuddling of a precious toy can be a huge comfort.

She has gathered gifts from multiple schools and churches and had family, friends and student volunteers serve at the drop-off site with her.

"I had students who received gifts from Operation Christmas Child while they were living in an orphanage in Russia, and then after being adopted, as local high school students, they got excited to pack their own boxes and give back because they knew the impact of these simple gifts," Buck said.

COURTESY PHOTO: SUSAN BUCK - U'Lee Brown leads the Ohana Church team and coordinates gathering items throughout the year and packing thousands of shoebox gifts.

As the project has grown, it has evolved. Today, people can fill a shoebox, go online and donate $9 for shipping, and can even participate in Follow Your Box by adding a tracking label.

Once a shoebox arrives at Canby's local drop-off site, it is packed into shipping cartons and taken to a collection center in Gresham. There the cartons are transferred to a semi-trailer and trucked to a Fullerton, California processing center.

There, each shoebox gets scanned and logged into the tracking system and is checked to be sure it has appropriate items (toys, personal hygiene and school supplies, but no liquids, food or toys associated with war). Then they are sorted by gender and age group (2-4; 5-9; or 10-14 year olds) and put back into the same shipping cartons and distributed worldwide.

Once the shoeboxes arrive at their destination, local leaders and Operation Christmas Child volunteers hand them out at parties in schools, churches, orphanages and community centers, and an email is sent to the givers who added tracking labels letting them know where in the world their gifts were given.

Those giving shoeboxes are encouraged to include a personal note of caring and friendship, and sometimes communication comes back, like it did with co-drop-off leader Yvonne Boring. Her grandson had included a letter in his box, and they connected through Facebook with a girl in the Philippines.

"This project works amazingly because everyone offers whatever they can to help out," Boring said. "For example, the year after our moving van died, while driving to a kickoff event for leaders, I was wondering what we would do. That morning, Matt Furguson came up to me and said he had a moving business and asked if there was any way he could assist us. Thankfully, this is the third year Northwest Grace Moving of Oregon City has donated their services, transferring over 8,000 shoeboxes for us so far."

COURTESY PHOTO: SUSAN BUCK - Safety protocols for collecting this year include gloves, masks, sanitizer and contactless curbside drop-off at 900 N. Juniper St. in Canby.

There is still time to get involved. National Collection Week ends Monday, Nov. 23. Canby Alliance Church will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Nov. 20, and from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 21-22, to take shoeboxes. The last chance to participate with drop-offs is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23.

This year, due to COVID-19, the site features noncontact drop-off protocols. When people arrive with gifts, they pull up curbside, and volunteers can offload the boxes from the vehicles while drivers wait behind the wheel. Information is exchanged while observing social distancing and wearing masks.

"We miss the excitement of seeing piles of boxes on the tables and the hugs and cookies exchanged inside, but even in the parking lot, waving and using electronic check-in or taking information orally, transferring gifts is still a great joy and a wonderful way to start a season of giving," Buck said.

For more information about how to pack a box, participate online, donate money to help with shipping expenses or find additional drop-off locations, visit the website at sampur.se/2ITKyFC.


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