2021 saw more support for Operation Christmas Child coming from people in Southwestern Manitoba.

The program began back in 1993. Since then more than 188 million children in more than 170 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoe box.

The regional coordinator for Southwestern Manitoba is Katie Buhler of Brandon. She says this year’s response brought back support to what it was before the pandemic. “No question it’s increasing and hopefully we'll get back to normal soon. Lots of volunteers help out at the churches in the area to take ownership of the program and it has been great getting their feed back. Overall we’ve had a great response.”

This year Buhler’s collection depot had 2,700 gift filled shoe boxes dropped off in mid November.

“That’s still lower than what we received before Covid hit but we’re confident in the future we’ll be able to build on those numbers.”

Katie Buhler credits the volunteers with making the program a success. However, she says there’s room for improvement.

“It’s all about reminding people about the boxes and collection season. Getting visibility where people go like churches and businesses. A lot of small towns outside of Brandon have several volunteers on their teams to organize the shoe box drive. In Brandon I’m by myself as a year round volunteer. It would help to build our team in the Brandon area to do more outreach and media relations. We work with what we have to keep the program going.”

Outside of Brandon Buhler says places like Neepawa and Glenboro do a fantastic job when it comes to getting shoe boxes collected on a per capita basis.

“It’s about having the right people who are passionate about and can help organize it and things like that.”

The shoe boxes went from Brandon to the processing centre in Calgary before being sent off to children in seven different countries mostly in Central and South America.