For 20 years, more than 100 million boys and girls around the world have opened up shoeboxes to find gifts that many of us would take for granted, but are much appreciated by these young children living in poverty.
Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry operations to make these gifts possible through its Operation Christmas Child program.
Members of Meadow Creek Church in Andover have been packing shoeboxes with school supplies, stuffed animals, hygiene products, wash clothes and much more for years to be sent to children in impoverished countries, according to church member Barb Craven.
For the first time, about 50 volunteers gathered Nov. 16 for a packing party and filled 179 shoeboxes, said Craven, project leader.
One impactful testimonial Craven heard in the past was how one young boy on opening his shoebox ate a tube of toothpaste because he did not know it was for brushing his teeth. He was also in awe over getting his own wash cloth because he was used to sharing a towel with 20 other boys.
“It’s amazing how every day essentials we use are important for children in other parts of the world,” Craven said.
Meadow Creek Church member Pamela Henry is area coordinator of the Twin Cities north metro for this ministry program and said there are 16 locations that packed shoeboxes were dropped off, with most being at churches.
Her first year as area coordinator was last year and about 30,000 shoeboxes full of gifts were collected. Her goal was to collect 37,000 between Nov. 18-25 this year. They exceeded this goal by 861 boxes and more continued to come just beyond the deadline. A group of elderly ladies from Blaine and Fridley packed over 4,000 boxes on their own and have consistently packed a large number of shoeboxes, she said.
With shoeboxes now at two main distribution centers, volunteers will look through them to ensure there is nothing that could break or leak.
The shoeboxes this time will then be delivered to children in India, Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia.
Although the holiday season will come and go quickly, the work of Samaritan’s Purse never really ends. Recruiting new churches and organizations to pack shoeboxes or to be a drop-off center and advertising its mission to the general public are year-round tasks, according to Henry.
As the beginning of the school year gets closer, Samaritan’s Purse encourages the public to scoop up low-priced school supplies that could be donated to these kids during the holiday season.
Henry loves seeing all the people come together for the packing parties, united in one worthy cause, and in a fun and festive atmosphere.
“It is so exciting,” she said. “It’s an easy way for people to come together for a common goal.”
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org