Fort Smith volunteer gets in the Christmas spirit with ‘Nunavut Shoebox Operation’

Fort Smith volunteer gets in the Christmas spirit with ‘Nunavut Shoebox Operation’
Gaëlle St. Louis, Marg Shott, Jeannie Marie Jewell and Shannon Coleman volunteer with the Nunavut Shoebox Operation, through which they are sending non-perishable items to food banks in the far North.Photo: Dali Carmichael.

Christmas time is known as the season of giving and for one Fort Smith volunteer, the season got started early this year.

Jeannie Marie Jewell spent the majority of last week at Aurora College, where she commandeered the Nunavut Shoebox Operation, a charitable endeavor she dreamed up that sends donations of nonperishable food items to food banks across the territorial border to the east.

“I wanted to find a unique way to share the Christmas spirit,” Jewell said. “When my kids were small, we used to do shoeboxes for the kids in Africa so I thought this would be a challenge – exciting, heartwarming and helpful.”

Jewell decided to send the presents to Nunavut because of the high cost of living there, especially in the more isolated communities.

“I started looking at their food prices,” she said. “I thought, those families would really appreciate a box before Christmas that would help them alleviate the food costs.”

The entire operation has been run by volunteers, from the gift donations to wrapping up the presents to their transportation.

“I asked Wesclean to transport the boxes from Fort Smith to Hay River,” Jewell said. “I contacted Buffalo Joe with Buffalo Airways to fly the boxes from Hay River to Yellowknife and and they all, without hesitation, agreed to help.”

From Yellowknife, the assortment of foodstuffs will be flown to Nunavut via Canadian North airlines.

“Once I had that in place I knew my biggest hurdle was jumped,” Jewell said. “I just started advertising on Facebook and then I put little posters up this week and a couple of the organizations generously donated,” like Kaeser’s, the NWT Métis Nation, Freund’s Building Supplies and Wally’s, the drugstore.

Some chose to donate cash instead of food items, in which case Jewell shopped for goods to add to the mountain of baking supplies, pasta and dry milk. She also collected some canned items; though they couldn’t be shipped all the way to Nunavut – due to the risk of freezing – they were sent to the local food bank.

In the span of a week, Jewell and her team had collected a total of 132 boxes and three large garbage bags stuffed with food.

“We just tried to work collectively,” she said. “It’s been good and I find it fun.”

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