25 years of sharing Christmas joy with others around the world


The people behind organising the shoebox appeal for Samaritan's Purse.

The church hall in Drumkeeran Parish in North Fermanagh was recently bursting with Christmas joy as the thousands of shoeboxes collected for this year’s Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child were prepared for loading onto a lorry to bring to needy children in foreign countries.

The collection in this part of Clogher Diocese is supervised each year by Irene Boyd MBE who receives filled boxes from people from churches, schools and various organisations from over a wide area.

But this year is a special one for Irene. This is her 25th year as co-ordinator in the area for the charity, the international organisation which delivers the boxes of toys and goodies to children who have not experienced gifts at Christmas before.

Irene modestly estimates that in all those years, she has overseen the collection of almost 110,000 shoeboxes with an average 4000 boxes brought to her collection centre at Drumkeeran Parish Hall, Tubrid each year.

Irene has been supported by a team of committed volunteers who help check the boxes and seal them before they are packed into cardboard cartons prior to loading onto a lorry at the end of November.

For Irene, it is not simply keeping busy a few weeks to get the boxes ready. In January each year, armed with some of the donations she receives for the charity, she will go around the post-Christmas sales buying up items that will be used as fillers for the following year’s boxes that might not be filled enough. Then in August and September, she will visit schools, youth organisations, voluntary organisations and churches distributing leaflets and then prepare to accept the filled boxes throughout October and November.

She says she wants to share God’s love through bringing these small gifts to children of various ages in countries where Christmas presents are not able to be given.

It all began for Irene from a small project she introduced to her Sunday School class and originally using her home as a makeshift collection centre. Now this has grown to be a major exercise each year as she co-ordinates one of the many collection centres around the country which donate shoeboxes to this charity.

She acknowledges great help from her husband, John and family members as well as her team of volunteers and for others around the county who help her such as Mrs Joan Bullock, Mrs Lilian Willis and their friends in the Derrylin area over several years.

Through the year, Irene promotes the charity through talks to various Mothers’ Union, senior citizens and school organisations and often accepts donations for the charity which helps to purchase additional resources such as booklets of Gospel stories about the birth of Jesus which will accompany the boxes.

As Irene, her family and local helpers look forward to their own Christmas celebrations, they can be satisfied that needy children and teenagers will take great delight opening their boxes of joy and goodwill.