A shoebox can transform a child’s life.
When Veronica Miranda received a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child filled with small gifts and a special letter, that moment was the turning point that led her out of poverty and onto the path of helping others.
“I’m here today because one of you decided to pack a box that I received,” she said Aug. 5 while visiting Bainbridge and Poulsbo.
She met with church leaders and volunteers sharing her story about receiving a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
By the time she was 12, the Texas native had endured many personal losses. Within two years, her alcoholic father was sent to prison, her uncle died, her brother died of traumatic brain injuries and her mother was incarcerated. In 2010, along with her younger brother and sister, Miranda was sent to live in an orphanage in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“I was in a really dark place,” Miranda said, “I hated everything around me and I felt really alone.”
She remembers when she first learned the true meaning of Christmas and then received a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child.
“As soon as I opened the box, I got the smell of America, and it reminded me of growing up in Texas with my family.” At the bottom of the box she found a Christmas card. “It said, Merry Christmas, we love you so much. You have a family here that is praying for you,” Miranda recited.
“When I read those words, I felt so loved and cared for because it’s what I needed and wanted. I could feel God’s love in a tangible way, because I literally had something physical in front of me that said those exact words,” Miranda said. “ In that moment I felt like I could breathe again.”
As her anger subsided, Miranda felt the need to serve the community where she cared for the children and set up a soup kitchen that served more than 270 children. For the next five years, Miranda and her siblings lived in the orphanage until they were discovered by a Washington family who brought them to Woodinville, where they were eventually adopted by Laura and Dave Barnett.
“The Barnett family are just amazing people, and that’s where home is for us,” Miranda said.
As she spoke to the group she emphasized the importance of sending the shoeboxes. “Every box matters. It’s not just a box. It’s the box that will transform someone’s life,” Miranda said.
Today, Miranda is thriving. She is a Washington State University graduate living in Florida and pursuing a master’s degree in global ministry design at Southeastern University.
“I would like to start a nonprofit that focuses on financial sustainability by partnering with existing nonprofits in developing countries to create small-business ventures, like coffee shops and laundromats that can provide revenue, yet empower the local community,” said Miranda, who is a communications strategist for the nonprofit One Hope.
Bobbi Strom is the logistics team dropoff leader for the Bainbridge First Baptist Church and has been managing the shoebox collection for about 15 years. “All together, about 200 boxes come from our church and another 150 from individuals around Bainbridge,” Strom said, adding the church collects items throughout the year and packs the shoeboxes in November.
Last year, Kitsap County packed more than 17,000 shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items, which contributed to the more than 10.5 million boxes sent to children around the world in 100 countries.
Tamara Henry, the regional area coordinator who oversees the leaders for Kitsap, Olympic and Snohomish counties, has been working with Operation Christmas Child for 23 years. Calvary Chapel is her home church, and she shared a story about how boxes were distributed in Ukraine.
Henry said, “650,000 shoeboxes made it into Ukraine less than two weeks before the war started. They were there ready to hand out to people who were in the shelter system, which are mainly under churches. And it didn’t matter whether they went to church or not. It was a safe place and then through the network, they were able to hand out all these boxes to kids who had lost everything.”
For 29 years, Samaritan’s Purse has collected more than 198 million shoebox gifts and has distributed them in 170 countries and territories. The organization has 9,000 year-round volunteers in the United States. National Collection Week takes place Nov. 14–21. To learn more or send a box, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.