Giving a very special shoebox full of…
They are just a plain, old, used shoebox. Without the shoes.
But, what is inside can make all the difference in the life of a child somewhere around the world.
It is called Operation Christmas Child, and it is a project of the Samaritans Purse organization.
A large group of Faribault County folks are heavily involved in this shoebox project.
“This was our biggest year ever,” says Karen Asmus, one of the local coordinators for the shoebox project. “We gathered up 1,097 shoe boxes from our local area.”
Asmus, Sharon Zehm and Ruth Green are the trio in charge, but there are many, many more people involved.
“Our ladies group at our church, First Presbyterian in Blue Earth, has been involved for quite a few years,” Asmus says. “But, for the past six years we have served as a ‘relay center’ for the project.”
That means they gather the shoe boxes from around the area. Asmus says there are 16 area churches involved, as well as several other non-church organizations, who all make up shoe boxes.
“We have individuals who do it on their own, not as part of a group,” she adds. “Some only donate items and not whole shoe boxes.”
So what is the deal with these shoe boxes? What is in them?
Asmus explains each box is crammed full of items for children.
“There are health care products like soap, wash cloths, toothbrush and toothpaste,” Asmus says. “Some kids have never had their own soap or toothpaste.”
There are school supplies like pencils, pens, notebooks, crayons and the like.
There can also be items such as T-shirts or other clothing.
And maybe even some footwear will make it into these shoeboxes.
“Dollar General in Blue Earth donated many, many pairs of flip-flops,” Asmus says. “And since a lot of the boxes make their way to countries along the equator, these are good items to include.”
Because it is called Operation Christmas Child, each box will also contain some type of toy or gift.
On Sunday, Nov. 22, the 1,097 shoeboxes were recorded and packed into 67 cartons.
With the help of many strong young people and adults from Cornerstone Church in Blue Earth, the cartons were loaded into the Ankeny Furniture enclosed truck, use of which had been donated for the project by Bruce Ankeny.
“We drove the truck and cartons to the Hilltop Methodist Church in Mankato,” Asmus says. “They serve as the ‘collection center.’ There were so many cartons from us and other relay centers in southern Minnesota that it filled the semi-truck and they had to order another one. That is a good problem to have.”
The many cartons are trucked to Minneapolis to a ‘processing center.’
“There they open each box and check them out, then add items if the boxes are not full or are short of something,” Asmus explains. “We sent along seven large boxes full of items to be used to fill in the shoeboxes that need a little more.”
The boxes are also checked to see if they have inappropriate items. Toy guns would be something not to send out, Asmus gives as an example.
After that the boxes are shipped to needy children around the world. Asmus says the whole project is part of the work of Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.
“We have seen some DVD videos of the project,” Asmus says. “The children who get these boxes are so appreciative many have never had any kind of a gift before. Some become Christians because of this project. It is so heartwarming to see.”
Asmus says they have a long list of people to thank.
“There are so many who help us in some way,” she says. “Thanks to everyone who helps at our relay center, with packing the cartons, the paperwork and loading the truck and the trailer. And to Bruce Ankeny for the use of his truck.”
They also thank local media outlets for helping to promote the project each year.
Then of course, there are the many people who donate the shoeboxes or the items that go in them.
“I tell them to try and envision the child who receives each box we send,” Asmus says. “We thank God that we can make a difference in millions of lives with the power of this simple gift.”
Asmus says that is fun to see more and more people becoming involved each year.
“So many people are already excited about doing it again next year,” she says. “And we have new people donating every year.”
Pretty soon they will have to get a bigger truck another nice problem to have.