It's just over one month since our launch day of Operation Christmas Child Maidenhead.
In a departure from previous years, we had our launch on Friday instead of Saturday. Here, one of our drivers, Dave, is telling us what it entails go out collecting shoeboxes from different locations during the campaign. He gave a very lively and entertaining talk. We also heard the shoebox experience as told by a child, the daughter of one of our volunteers, who has been involved at her school and church for a number of years. I also gave a short overview of my job as collections coordinator, telling which area we cover and the numbers of drivers and collections involved.
After the talks were over we tucked in to some cakes. We had made 100 fairy cakes. Fairly insignificant, you might think, but the idea was that each cake represented one million shoeboxes. This was to mark the amazing milestone achieve by Operation Christmas Child last year of delivering 100 million shoeboxes to needy children since it began in 1990.
Refreshed by the cakes, shoebox checking started with much enthusiasm.
Some beautiful handmade fillers had already appeared to help top up any boxes that needed a bit extra.
Although things were a little slow starting this year, soon the boxes came flooding in. My fellow coordinator Maggie lends a hand to bring them in from a jam-packed van...
... ably assisted by her husband Ray, who is always a hive of activity when it comes to shoeboxes!
So gradually the stagein the church hall, where we stack the boxes prior to checking, got that familiar look at this time of year. Every single box is checked, both for it's contents, and for it's overall appearance.
Some boxes need a little more attention to their wrapping! We have volunteers who collect and wrap shoeboxes throughout the year so that we can give the contents of boxes such as this a new box quickly and easily. Covering shoeboxes is quite a time-consuming task but goes faster once you get the hang of it! I must admit I quite enjoy it, but not when there are a lot of other things going on in the processing centre that need my attention!
Some teddies appeared to keep us company. Unfortunately these are a little too large to go in a shoebox, but will go to another good cause later.
Once the shoeboxes are checked, they're packed into cartons ready for shipping. Every few days these are collected by other volunteers from our export warehouse, which is down in Hampshire. It's a job for strong arms, loading the cartons into the van!
The bulk of our shoeboxes arrived during our second full week of checking, with 3 vanloads like this one, full of shoeboxes collected from schools and churches around the area.
Eventually there were too many boxes to safely stack them on the stage, so we had to spill over into the church too. The back 7-8 pews were just full of shoeboxes.
Most days the church hall was full of people checking shoeboxes and packing the cartons. We are fortunate to have a strong and reliable group of volunteers, and also to have the use of the church premises which are warm and comfortable and centrally located for people to get to easily.
One day we ran out of cartons to fill, but fortunately we got replenishments just in time.
And the boxes were still coming in by the vanload...
... and by the carload!
So we had enough boxes in the end...
... to keep even our younger helpers busy.
And those teddies seemed to be multiplying when we weren't looking!
Our final total this year was 6223 shoeboxes. We were delighted to have so many, and surprised that we were only just a few short of last year's figure.
These are the final few cartons awaiting collection last week. They are all gone now and will be soon on their way to this year's destinations which include Bosnia, Belarus and Swaziland.
I'd like to thank everyone involved in this year's campaign. There are so many people involved -
- all those who have assembled their shoeboxes and taken them to school, or to church, or to work, or to a drop-off point, or brought them in to us at Maidenhead;
- all the warehouse volunteers who help with the checking and packing;
- our drivers who go out collecting;
- our team who are working all year giving talks, promoting OCC, planning the campaign and setting up and clearing up after each day's checking;
- our treasurers who count and bank all the shoebox donations;
- our crafters who make items all the year for shoeboxes
The efforts of all these people have made it possible to put a smile on 6223 needy children's faces this Christmas!