News Story

Bowmanville Volunteers Bless Children Around the World With Shoebox Gifts

Members of the Bowmanville, Ontario, congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in a yearlong service project through the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift project.

The yearlong service effort of making and collecting items for over 100 shoebox gifts was co-ordinated by Carolyn Johnston, the Relief Society president of the Bowmanville congregation. “There is so much need in the world,” noted Johnston. “We can’t fill every need, but each of us can do something. As we reach out to our family and friends, our neighbours and the community, … we can bring a little light into someone else’s life.”

Donations of hygiene items, school supplies, toys and games were collected monthly for the shoeboxes. Women from the Relief Society worked from home or met monthly at an “In His Service” group to make dresses, shorts, skipping ropes, necklaces, bracelets, tote bags, small toys and puzzles to be included in the shoeboxes.

Valerie St. Croix of the Bowmanville Relief Society commented, “Everyone was so very generous with their shoebox contributions. There was a beautiful homemade dress for every girl and a pair of shorts for every boy.”

Priesthood quorums, youth and Primary children also helped. “It was wonderful to see the fun participants had as we gathered together to complete this service project,” said Tara Johnston. “It was inspiring to see the completed shoeboxes pile up and to realize that many children would be so excited to receive a gift — maybe for the first time and possibly the only time — from people in other parts of the world who were thinking about them and who cared about them.”

Local Durham College students took charge of planning and running a fundraising event to raise money for the postage needed to ship the shoeboxes. “We saw God’s hand in this,” said Carolyn Johnston. “Normally the groups raise $300–350. This group of students raised $1,138 — an unprecedented success.”

Amanda Nagy, one of the Durham College students involved in the fundraising, expressed, “It was definitely a learning experience for myself and my peers, but we were so happy to put on a successful fundraiser and help make a difference for those kids.”

As a result of the unanticipated fundraising success, additional gifts were given to local families, including a family that was “adopted” through the Holiday Hope Program run by the Durham Children’s Aid Foundation.

Samaritan’s Purse Canada is an international relief agency and ministry that has been operating since 1973. They have distributed over 135 million shoebox gifts worldwide to children who are also offered an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ.

The smiles of the members of the Bowmanville congregation radiated the joy that comes to those who follow Jesus Christ’s example of serving others. These shoebox gifts will be a blessing to many children who receive them over the coming months.

Church President Russell M. Nelson teaches: “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives” (“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” Oct. 2016 general conference).

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