Local volunteer shares impact of a shoebox
Operation Christmas Child sends Cassville joy around the world
In the United States, cardboard shoeboxes are commonplace, and often tossed in the trash after purchasing a pair of sneakers.
But to a child in need in a third-world country, the box and its contents delivered through Operation Christmas Child, a program of Samaritan's Purse, are a gift from heaven and answer to prayer.
On the home front, Operation Christmas Child Project Coordinator Jackie Hendrix has been facilitating collection and distribution of the gift-bearing boxes through Cassville First Baptist Church for 10 years, and believes the boxes and their contents have an immediate and eternal impact on the lives of children.
"People may ask themselves, 'Why pack a shoebox...I am too busy as it is,'" she said. "I say, why not pack a shoebox when it takes only a small amount of time to make a big impact on the life of a child? Anyone can do it. Last year, we collected 1,098 boxes. That represents 14 churches in Barry County, plus many individuals. We would love to surpass that this year.
"We give our children so much. We are incredibly blessed in America. Regardless of our income level, Americans have so much more than most of the world's population. In the U.S., we just don't know what it's like to be without. Can you imagine not having your own toothbrush, never having a toy, or clean drinking water? We cannot imagine."
Hendrix said during her time with the program, she has heard stories of how children have longed for a particular item, then receive that very item in a shoebox sent through the program.
"What are the chances that a little girl in Ukraine who walks to school daily, through mud and water in pair of torn shoes, would receive a pair of tennis shoes in her shoebox?" she said. "The chances are 100 percent when God is in it. Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Project is one that God is using to impact the lives of precious children all over the world. We are grateful for the opportunity to be just a small part of this God-sized project.
"Many people collect items all year long. When November comes, you'd be surprised at what you can gather up. You don't have to wait until the last minute."
During National Collection Week Nov. 16-23, individuals, families, churches, and groups in Cassville, and all over the U.S., will be collecting and preparing the boxes before they are shipped to their final destinations -- into the outstretched arms of waiting children.
The church has been participating in the program for 10 years, and started when Southaven Baptist in Springfield asked if they would serve as a relay center.
"We have about a dozen that man a collection table at our fellowship hall during collection week," Hendrix said. "They receive the boxes and make sure they're ready to be shipped. From here, the boxes go to a church in Hollister, and from there, they go to a distribution center. There are about seven distribution centers in the U.S. All the boxes will eventually get to Denver, Colo., where thousands of volunteers go through them."
Hendrix said Operation Christmas Child firmly believes for every person who packs the box, there is a child who is preordained to have that box, so volunteers try not to disturb the boxes, but do scan them for safety reasons.
"The week they ship, Operation Christmas Child is the largest shipper in the U.S. that week, over any other company," she said. "The shoeboxes are all about sharing the love of Jesus with children all over the world. That's the bottom line. That's what drives us. Of course, when they get a box that is filled with toys, candy and toiletry items, that brings them a lot of joy. Most of the boxes go into third-world countries and war-torn areas.
"We hear stories all the time about children who weren't able to go to school because they didn't have school supplies, and they get a box with paper and pencil, which enables them to go back to school. In many third-world countries, children are responsible for bringing their own school supplies. We hear stories of how God uses the boxes in miraculous ways and the stories we hear come from the children. So we know they are true. You hear about children who have a desire in their heart for a special thing whether it's school supplies, a doll, shoes, and they get a box with the very thing they believed for."
Along with packing the shoebox, Hendrix advises senders to do something else -- pray.
"Pray before you pack your box that God will take that box to the very child who needs the items that are inside, and will use it to minister to them to help meet their needs," she said.
Hendrix said Operation Christmas Child hopes to distribute 11 million shoeboxes this year. Since 1993, it has sent boxes to 150 countries across six continents."
Any standard-sized shoebox can be used, or people may pick up a box from the church.
"Many of the boxes are just plain shoeboxes that people have wrapped in Christmas paper," she said. "And, many people buy a similar-sized plastic box at Walmart or Dollar General, so the children have something to store their items in. The box is like an additional gift, because it can be used to store their personal items."
For instructions on how to fill a shoebox, people may visit www.samaritanspurse.org/cc. Senders can track what country their box is delivered to.
"You can enclose the $7 shipping fee inside your box, or you can pay the shipping fee online," Hendrix said. "If you pay online, you will receive a tracking label to affix to the shoebox. You still drop off the shoebox to the collection site, but the tracking label enables you to receive an email stating what country your box was delivered to."
National Collection Week is Nov. 16-23. Drop-off times at the church, located at 602 West St., are Monday, Nov. 16, noon to 5 p.m., through Monday, Nov. 23, 8 a.m. to noon.
"A simple shoebox can bring joy and love to the life of a child," Hendrix said. "Start a family tradition of packing a shoebox. It's a great way to practice kindness in action and teach your children to think of others first. It is our plan to continue this project. We feel like it impacts children's lives for eternity."