Mark and Jenn's Packing PartyPublished: November 20, 2019
Mark and Jenn Cartwright have been packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child for over eight years. Since 2012, the family of four have collected over 5,000 shoeboxes for children in developing countries across the world.
Mark, Boardwalk’s Warehouse Manager in London, knew about the fundraising initiative a couple of years before Boardwalk challenged its associates in 2012. Mark says the corporate challenge lit a spark in his family as he knew they could do more.
“Packing shoeboxes is such an easy thing for any age to do. Our two daughters have helped pack from the time they were three years old. It’s a hands-on activity that’s fantastic for teaching children about giving back. It’s incredible to know that a simple box can help change another child’s life, and not only them but their families, friends and communities.”, says Mark.
Mark’s wife and former Community Coordinator for London’s Operation Christmas Child, Jennifer, holds an online charity auction every year in which local businesses donate products or services. It’s been such a successful fundraiser and an amazing way to engage the local community in giving back.
“One year, I decided to reach out to an entrepreneurial group I was part of on Facebook and asked if anyone would like to donate to my online auction. That year alone, I raised $1800 and used the money to buy supplies to fill shoeboxes. I bought plastic bins from Walmart and packed 40 boxes. I’ve been holding an online auction every year since, each time raising between $1800 - $23000. 100% of the money raised goes towards the shoeboxes.”
Encouraged by the positive reception, Jennifer created a Facebook page called “Christmas Shoeboxes”. Today, the online group has grown to over 1300 members. Group members are quick to “tag” Jennifer when people are looking for a charity to help with or to make donations of gently used toys. Followers also post deals and share flyers.
“We get messages all year from people who have been collecting and are ready to donate. I started this endeavor, knowing that these shoeboxes would provide hope and love to those living in dire situations. What I didn't realize is the impact it would have on my community and me. It's changing lives here too!” says Jennifer.
What started as packing a few shoeboxes every year has grown into a labour of love that requires a lot of hard work and effort all year long. Jennifer now has a team of volunteers who work with her year-round to collect donations from business, including a much need storage unit to hold supplies.
“We’ve just been approved for storage year-round, generously donated by Forest City Storage. This allows us to fundraise all year and take advantage of sales when we see them. For example, a follower shared a huge deal of a pack of 24 crayons for 10 cents! That's unheard of, so we went to work and bought out pretty much every Walmart in south western Ontario. We now have enough for this year, next year and even some beyond that!
The Cartwrights have also started hosting an annual packing party where volunteers come together to pack shoeboxes.
This year, Mark and Jennifer set a goal of 1200 shoeboxes. Together with the support of the community, Mark, Jenn and over 80 volunteers managed to put together an amazing 1,319 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
“I believe the reason people love this charity is that anyone can participate. Last year at the packing party, we had people come with mobility issues, one in a wheelchair. Small children helped their mom and dad pick stuffed animals and toys for the boxes. It impacts everyone, and I'm honoured to get to share that with our community.” says Jennifer
Mark and Jennifer do their best to ensure each box is filled with a handwritten card and a photo, as well as necessities like soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, notebooks, pencils, pens, crayons, pencil sharpeners and toys.
“These boxes represent much more than simple gifts. These boxes give hope and dignity to parents who want the best for their kids, but can't give it.” adds Jennifer.
To learn more about the Cartwright’s fundraising initiatives and how you can get involved, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharityAuctionLondon/.
Stay tuned for updates from our Boardwalk associates on their Operation Christmas Child efforts!