A retired Winnipeg nurse is celebrating an answer to prayer as she moves in supplies to a donated storage unit for her future OCC shoeboxes.
Packing shoeboxes for children around the world has become a huge passion for Barbara Shumeley. She initially started packing Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoeboxes roughly 15 years ago, starting with a few each year.
Then when Shumeley retired, she ramped up the packing to hundreds of boxes a year.
"I was running what really did become an enterprise, out of my home," says Shumeley. With her husband's declining health, she knew that her home simply wouldn't work to store all the products and boxes throughout the year anymore.
Shumeley shared this news with CHVN's Sylvia St.Cyr during an interview in November 2020. That day while Barbara asked listeners for their help on the drive-home show, a call came in.
Maggie O'Brien is the Regional Manager of the Access Storage Winnipeg North units. She was listening to CHVN on her drive home when audio from Shumeley came on, saying she needed a space to pack and store shoeboxes.
"We did the interview and that is kind of history. I told the story and at that time I put out the plea and prayer that someone would offer rent-free space because we wanted all the money to spend on the boxes," says Shumeley.
She had been having a difficult day when CHVN called with the news that someone answered her prayer.
"I believe in these 'God-appointed moments'," says O'Brien.
While O'Brien didn't know if her team at work would be on board, she wanted to do something to help.
"I always listen to CHVN. I was driving home from one of my facilities and I was listening to Barbara on the radio and she said that she needed storage. I knew I had some spaces and resources. Lo and behold we were able to facilitate Barbara in a 10' x 30' spot, which will give her room for her boxes and workshop."
Shumeley and the rest of the women who help her knit, collect, and pack boxes, whom she refers to as her 'elves' are hoping to pack more shoeboxes than ever this year.
In 2019, Shumeley and her elves packed 730 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, that subsequently would go all over the world to children in need, many of who have never received a gift in their life.
At the beginning of 2020, the group's goal was to pack more shoeboxes than the previous year.
"We were aiming for 731, to be honest. As it started to grow I realized then that I probably had to find some other space or call it quits, unfortunately," says Shumeley.
By the end of the collection date in 2020, they had packed 957 boxes which was well over their goal.
"My work in healthcare has taught me that partnerships and collaboration are the way that we get things done and it follows through in all walks of life," says Shumeley.
At the beginning of January 2021, Barbara and a few elves went to sign papers at Access Storage and take the keys to her indoor workspace, provided by the company.
Donations have been pouring in already and Shumeley has space to store, cut fabric, and pack boxes this year.
"It opens up the door for so many things," says Shumeley. "There are so many opportunities here for people to hear about it and get involved. It's very exciting."
She is still in need of one thing to complete this space.
"I know there's somebody out there that has some lovely 6 ft or 8 ft shelving units because we need shelving units to put all of our boxes and things as they come in."
People with units can email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to Maggie, Darlene, and Access Storage for donating this space to our project from now till Feb 4th, 2022. This has been an answer to my prayer on so many different levels," says Shumeley.