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Gift of giving . . . Shoeboxes filled with gifts will be given to disadvantaged children in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia as part of Operation Christmas Child. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Alexia Johnston

Mackenzie residents are getting into the festive spirit in support of children in need.

The community has spent recent weeks filling shoeboxes with gifts, including toys and crafts, which will be sent to the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia – wherever there is a need.

The initiative is a branch of Samaritan’s Purse, an international organisation supported by groups around the world, including in the US, Finland, Australia and the UK.

Participants fill their shoeboxes for children and stipulate the age group, selecting from one of three options – ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14.

Among those supporting the cause, called Operation Christmas Child, is Jodi Payne, of Fairlie.

She learnt about the project through her family in the US.

“When my two children were young, they would gather together their pocket money and a shoebox and we would each pack a shoebox to send away.”

The family has now introduced the concept to their youth group.

“One day I would love to be a part of putting shoeboxes in the hands of children.” – Jodi Payne

“I thought it would be a great project for them to become involved in. The last few years, I have tried to promote it more throughout Fairlie and the Mackenzie community.”

Mrs Payne has also introduced the project in Geraldine.

“We have had a huge community response this year – enough to make it our biggest year yet at 70 boxes, with a few more to come,” she said, of the Mackenzie-based collection.

Individuals, families and schools were among those who supported the project this year, including St Joseph’s School in Fairlie, which filled five boxes.

Mrs Payne said one woman collected soft toys all year round, while another had canvassed her neighbours and local businesses for donations.

Each box includes $10, which covers freight, advertising and administration.

Mrs Payne said she hoped to one day see the project through to the very end.

“One day I would love to be a part of putting shoeboxes in the hands of children. Watching the distribution days on videos .. always makes me know all that we do [is] worth it.”

The latest collection took place during October. The boxes are delivered to H&J Bruce Transport in Timaru in time for delivery to Christchurch. They are then sent to their final destinations, via Auckland.

For more information visit: samaritanspurse.org.au