Winnipegger and retired nurse Barbara Shumeley recently dropped off almost 900 packed shoeboxes to bless children through Operation Christmas Child (OCC), and she isn't done yet.
Shumeley has been packing shoeboxes for years now and for the past couple of years, she's completed between 800-1,000 shoeboxes each year.
"If it wasn't for Access Storage's heated storage unit that they gifted to us this last year, we absolutely will not be able to do this. Thank you to them for making this another awesome year."
It takes a whole entourage of people to pack this many boxes with gifts and everyday items for kids ages 2-16.
"Other people have come forward and helped," says Shumeley. "It's just amazing as people you don't expect end up helping. Like people we met at the storage units who are downsizing, they've made donations."
She also has a consistent group of people that help throughout the year that Shumeley calls 'The Elves.'
"My core volunteer, Jean, we call her the Elf House, she did some of the early shopping and got everything set up for the year. We have been busy all year round and that's been the blessing of having the storage unit."
Shumeley recalls back in April when an unexpected salesperson became part of the Christmas packing.
"I don't even remember what she was soliciting, but her name was Sarah. Somehow we got around to talking about the shoeboxes. Last week the phone rang and she said, 'This is Sarah.'"
Expecting to be sold something again, Shumeley was pleasantly surprised the actual reason for the call.
"She said, 'I have 220 hair scrunchies that I croqueted for your shoeboxes. Are you still doing that?' This was not even a person I knew."
Another gentleman, upon hearing about the story by listening to CHVN last November, donated 1,000 marbles to Shumeley to put a few into each of the boy's boxes.
Labour of Love
With inflation rising high this year, the retired nurse shares the creative ways she's continued packing these gifts for less fortunate children.
"It has been a challenge. I am fortunate that I do have a pension and we aren't able to travel. Several of the other volunteers donate as well; their time, sewing, and funds."
Shumeley shares how she and her team are very resourceful, putting each donation to good use.
"Somebody got a donation of upholstery fabric. Guess what we're making with it? Pencil cases."
Another item she enjoys putting in each box are stainless steel cutlery with a cloth napkin. Shumeley encourages people to think 'outside the box' when it comes to what items go inside.
The team just finished packing and dropping off 885 shoeboxes and believes they will hit 1,000 packed shoeboxes by the time collection week is finished.
Shumeley is still in need of more school supplies and toothbrushes if anyone is interested in donating. They can contact her through email at email@example.com.