POULSBO — To many, a shoe box is simply a handy conglomeration of conveniently-fitted cardboard material, folded together in just the right way for carrying newly bought footwear. But to some, those cardboard containers are less like back of the closet storage fodder and more like precious treasure chests. And what’s found inside them, gold.
The Operation Christmas Child Poulsbo area team worked Nov. 12-16 as a part of the Samaritan’s Purse national box collection week, taking in truckloads of cartons packed with goodies and necessities for kids in hurting communities worldwide. Shoe boxes stuffed with school supplies, toiletries, toys and personal letters were brought to St. Charles Church by groups and individuals giving to those in need. Loading ramps were donated for use by Hill Moving Services, and transporting wagons were donated by Valley Nursery.
Though down from last year’s 7,310 box collection mark, the team took in 6,510, an amount group coordinator Tamara Henry said still testifies to the generosity of local residents.
“Yes it is less than last year, but I’m so excited with how it went. That’s a lot of people reaching out,” she said. “Between gas and food prices and everything else being up people are affected, but these kids are always in need.”
Samaritan’s Purse is an organization that sends help year-round to areas devastated by natural disasters and poverty, setting up medical clinics and providing relief supplies in places around the globe.
“Every time there is a disaster alert anywhere in the world, they’re on the way before the disaster hits,” Henry said. “They serve the whole community’s needs. (Operation Christmas Child) is the part that hits the kids.”
While the children receiving the boxes live in 105 different countries, speak various languages and follow different religions, those donating are often just as diverse.
“People of all faiths do this project,” she said. “We have people who are Jewish, who are Muslim, who are of all different faiths that want to do this for the kids.”
Though some say the U.S. should first tend to its own, Henry said global proximity shouldn’t matter when a child is in need.
“They really are all our kids,” she said.
Because the holidays are often a financially binding time of year, Henry said people can begin to think ahead for next Christmas, slowly storing up items for boxes as they are found on sale, so when December rolls around, they’re ready to go.
“People can think about Operation Christmas Child all year round,” she said. “Buy stuff a little at a time.”
Operation Christmas Child has set the bar high this year, hoping to reach eight million kids. Eleven countries donate to the cause, churches, groups and individuals throughout the United States making up half of all box donations.
“A lot of them find out about it from the newspaper,” Henry said. “This area has been doing it for quite a few years.”
Shannon Benoit and her kids Breanne, 17, and Todd, 14, volunteered their services for a second year during collection week, labeling, packing and loading the truckloads of boxes to be sent all over the world.
“We love doing things as a family, especially outreach,” Shannon Benoit said.
Todd Benoit agreed.
“It’s very good for the kids,” he said, adding it was fun to help out. “It feels like I’m giving back a little bit.”
For more information on Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.