FOR the past 23 years thousands of volunteers have collected and packed Christmas shoeboxes for disadvantaged children.

In Oxfordshire alone more than 8,800 shoeboxes were collected and packed by hundreds of volunteers during the festive season last year.

Now the Samaritan’s Purse helpers who support Operation Christmas Child are celebrating the national campaign delivering its 100 millionth shoebox.

Pamela Clare, who is part of a group of Cowley knitters who make hundreds of hats, gloves and scarves to go in the boxes and has already begun knitting items for this year’s campaign, said: “It is absolutely excellent. I love doing it.” Marie Cotton, from North Leigh, has co-ordinated the appeal in Witney’s High Street Methodist Church for the past three years.

She said: “Everyone is as thrilled as I am. It just goes to show what you can achieve if everybody pulls together.”

Ms Cotton helped pack 2,866 boxes in a two-week period towards the end of last year.

She added: “I think it is very important because these children don’t get anything really.”

More than 300 volunteers worked in three Oxfordshire processing centres, in Abingdon, Thame and Witney, packing boxes from different counties that were sent to vulnerable children in countries including Bosnia and Romania.

Roger Fenton, Oxfordshire regional manager for Operation Christmas Child, said: “I would like to thank the volunteers at our local collection sites and all those who packed an Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift.

“For many of the children who receive these gifts, this shoe box will be the first gift they have ever received.”

He added: “We’re so grateful that despite the recession and the hardship everyone is feeling people have really gone the extra mile this year to pack shoeboxes with love and because of that we’ve been able to reach our 100 millionth shoebox.”

Samaritan’s Purse UK executive director Simon Barrington said: “It took us 23 years to reach our first 100 million but I'm confident we can achieve the next 100 million boxes in 10 years.”

  •  For details about the 2013 campaign, visit operation If you can donate double knit wool contact Pamela Clare on 01865 778873.