Making a Difference with a Simple Shoe box

Making a Difference with a Simple Shoe box
by Jennifer LB Leese

Millions of filled shoe box gifts will travel from the loving hands of kids and families in the U.S., to the hands of hurting children in 95 countries.
An estimated 7 million suffering children in these countries will receive personal, gift-filled shoe boxes through Operation Christmas Child's kids-helping-kids project--the world's largest children's Christmas mission. For many of these children, the shoe box gift will be the first gift they have ever received.
Operation Christmas Child began in the U.S. in 1993 with 28,000 shoe box gifts. "It is a project of the international Christian relief organization, Samaritan's Purse. Headed by Franklin Graham, son of Evangelist Billy Graham, Samaritan's Purse is currently working in 100 countries providing relief and aid to victims of war, natural disaster, famine and disease," explained Loretta Tharp, area collection center coordinator for Operation Christmas Child.
Since its beginning, the kids-helping-kids project has collected over 31 million shoe box gifts valued at more than $610 million. These kids hand-delivered them to children in 120 countries, including the children in Sudan suffering from the world's longest running civil war, war orphans in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, and Rwanda as well as the children in Honduras and Nicaragua who were left homeless by Hurricane Mitch during 1998.
Country-wide, kids, families, churches, scout troops, schools, civic clubs, local organizations, and businesses are in the process of filling their unused shoe boxes. More than 100,000 volunteers will help--50,000 within the United States--by collecting millions of shoe boxes
What goes in these "gift" boxes? Personal gifts (handmade items), school supplies, candy, toiletries, family photographs, notes of encouragement, shoes, clothes, notepads, pencils, stickers--just about anything you can fit within a shoe box. "Along with shoe box gifts, millions of children are given Gospel booklets in their own language."
These gifts of affection are packed and donated by millions of people in 11 countries: United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, and New Zealand. Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world since 1970, and their staff and partners personally hand-deliver the shoe box gifts. "Operation Christmas Child will use whatever means necessary-truck, boat, plane, helicopter, donkey, dog sled, even camel-to bring shoe boxes to children in more than 90 countries."
Because of local supporters last year, Loretta Tharp and her fellow partners were able to take 85,000 filler items to the Charlotte processing center to fill boxes that were not full. Not only do many people volunteer to gather, fill, and wrap shoe boxes for this cause, several like Richard O'toole, Roy and Martha Rotz, and Mr. and Mrs. Homer Mussleman have spent hour upon hour knitting, sewing, and making hand-crafted gifts from the heart.
Local businesses and organizations donate many of the items included in these boxes. "Oak Tree Casework in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, graciously donated warehouse space for filler items," said Tharp.
After the shoe boxes are collected, they are loaded on tractor-trailers and driven to Charlotte, North Carolina for inspection and preparement to travel overseas.
Interesting Facts:
* Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has packed an Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift.
* U2's lead singer, Bono, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, joined Operation Christmas Child in December 2002 to airlift 80,000 shoe box gifts to kids suffering the effects of HIV/AIDS in Uganda and war in Sudan.
* If the 31 million shoe boxes collected since 1993 were stacked one atop another, they would rise more than 12,200 times higher than the Empire State Building in New York City.
* If all 31 million children who have received shoe boxes stood hand-in-hand, they would form a line stretching 21,440 miles-enough to reach more than halfway around the world.
With these contributions, volunteers will purchase stuffed animals, socks, toothpaste, and hairbrushes for example to add to the shoe box offerings.
"We're currently looking for yarn donations," said Loretta Tharp. "We are always collecting things for the shoe boxes and looking for volunteers who can help now with making crafts and collecting donated items.
"6,000 tote bags were made by residents within our area," said Tharp. "People in our area are very giving people."
Many of us spend hours of time searching for ways to help the needy during Christmas. Operation Christmas Child gives you that opportunity. Since beginning work with Operation Christmas Child, Tharp works diligently throughout the year, loving every minute of it.
Official shoe box collection week for 2005 is November 15-22. Boxes can be shipped directly to: Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child, 801 Bamboo Road, P.O. Box 3000, Boone , NC 28607.
Please call Operation Christmas Child for free information on how you can be involved in this heart-warming project for children who are living in crisis situations at 1-800-353-5949, or visit www.samaritinspurse.org.