By Nick Sinis

LEONGATHA resident Doreen Western is encouraging locals to grab a shoebox and fill it with gifts for children in need as part of ‘Operation Christmas Child’ this year.

The operation, run by Samaritan’s Purse, collects shoe-sized boxes full of gifts which are then distributed to various countries for children who are suffering from war, poverty or natural disasters.

The boxes can be filled with a variety of gifts, including school supplies, toiletries, clothing and toys for children aged 2-14.

Doreen, who has been involved with Samaritan’s Purse for almost 20 years, said they collected 770 boxes last year.

“It was just so good that we were still able to get boxes overseas and send them to children,” she said.

“They went to Cambodia, Fiji and Africa.

“It’s a project of Samaritan’s Purse, which is a Christian organisation, and they have worldwide programs and help people with clean drinking water and medical items.”

Ms Western said there were a number of local churches and schools taking part in this year’s appeal.

“Overseas, when they get there, they usually distribute them at schools or churches and they let the kids know in advance,” she said.

“I’ve been on one of those distributions, and it’s just wonderful to see those children so delighted and happy.

“They come as close to Christmas as possible and anyone from the village is invited.

“Then they can see if that village needs clean drinking water. They help in various ways.”

Doreen added she hopes they can collect more than 1000 boxes this year, as the need is greater than ever to bring joy into children’s lives.

Pre-printed shoeboxes and information brochures are available at New Beginnings Bookshop on Bair Street, Leongatha.

Filled boxes can also be dropped there and need to be ready by the first week of October.

Regular sized shoeboxes can also be used, with a no lid no larger than an A4 page.

For more information on the project and on what to include, visit samaritanspurse.org.au/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.