It takes a group of "elves" and one Barbara Shumeley to fill a storage container of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes throughout the year.

Shumeley has been involved with Samaritan's Purse for 10 years, but now in retirement has taken her involvement to the next level.

"I started out by doing maybe one, two or three boxes, at the most. It's only in the last 5 years that I really became involved in a big way," says Shumeley.

"In a big way" meaning she filled over 300 shoe boxes her first committed and full-time year. "Once I retired I had time ... That was when I really decided that this was something I could do on a full-time basis," says Shumeley.

Helping others - and shopping - comes very naturally to Shumeley. "I also love to shop. I'm a very good shopper," she says.

"I get great sales in all sorts of different areas from clothes and shoes to all the school supplies and hygiene items as well. So that's a plus for me."

It isn't just the thrill of the deal, though, for Shumeley. As a nurse by profession, she believes that wanting to help people is part of her character and therefore motivates a year-round project like this.

Shumeley says, "I'm always thinking about how - whatever this item is that I'm looking at - how that's going to impact of influence a child in another country somewhere. That's probably the biggest motivation for me and why I do it."

Shumeley has the easily-recognized specialed red and green Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes delivered directly to her. She then gets all friends and helpers, who she refers to as "elves", to contribute bought and handmade items to the boxes.

Two of Shumeley's friends make glittery scribblers and add school supplies to the boxes. Two dentists donate toothbrushes for the hygiene portion of donations.

Shumeley, who shops every single day for supplies says, "I love shoes, myself. So I am always on the lookout for shoes."

Ellen, Shumeley's friend, contributes handmade jewellery to the boxes. Eva sews pencil cases and backpacks for children to bring all their new gifts home easier.

"We know a lot of the children who come to meet and hear the Gospel and the Word of God also go back to their villages and some of them have to walk many, many miles," says Shumeley.

Once the boxes are packed and the storage container - donated by an especially kind friend - is full, Shumeley and her elves load up and bring the boxes to Samaritan's purse designated drop-off sites.

"So far, we have had to pack - I've had volunteers come and help - pack up their cars and totes them off to Grant Memorial," says Shumeley.

And then, they do it all over again for the year. Shumeley says sometimes the supplies and boxes overflow into her own home: "My husband is quite tolerant for the most part - I must admit it looks like I'm a hoarder.

"He is always wondering why if I take 40 boxes, how come I come back in with bags of stuff that is going into the shoeboxes."

Beyond the box

In addition to her work with Samaritan's Purse and its international impact, Shumeley also collects supplies for refugee families.

After helping a fellow retiree downsize and move a hide-a-bed, she heard that a local refugee family needed an extra bed.

That family, with help from the St.James Resettlement Program, picked up the bed. Shumeley noticed right away that on this minus 20-degree day that the young refugee couple did not have proper winter clothes.

"So I went home immediately, dialled up and emailed probably 80 of my closest friends and started collecting clothes and it just went from there to furniture ... to bicycles .. to all sorts of things and it has just sort of continued because it just went from one person to the next, to the next, " says Shumeley. 

"When you meet one family, they are usually tied in a community that has many others. ... A lot of it is word of mouth."

"I love kids, I don't have my own children, so this is really nice for me to be able to do that and be apart of their lives as they settle in Winnipeg and go forward."

She has helped 47 families find the clothes, appliances, and furniture they need to settle into their new Canadian life. 

At first, she was the sole worker in this operation: "I had a truck and was delivering all these items and picking them up from friends. ... I've had a few little injuries so my husband has taken the battery of the truck and now I can't use the truck, but I can deliver stuff that is a little bit smaller."

Shumeley has now begun using the sitting truck as a second storage unit at home - don't tell her husband.

Shumeley has begun to consider slowing down or finding more help in both her shoebox and refugee endeavours but says her passion will not waiver. "I feel very privileged and fortunate for my life circumstances and to be able to share with others that don't have," says Shumeley.

"It still gives me huge satisfaction to be able to do that and to help others."