Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Christmas in a shoebox

Hagadone News Network | November 19, 2023 1:00 AM

The more Sheila Wayman talked about shoeboxes filled with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, the more her emotions got the best of her.

Her voice broke. Tears formed. Then, the Hayden Bible Church project leader found the words to explain why the Samaritan’s Purse program matters to her.

“It’s the influence that one box can have on not only a child, but mom and dad, grandma and grandpa and the whole village. Churches have been planted because of these boxes."

Wayman paused as she looked around the foyer at Anthem Church, where volunteers on Tuesday afternoon were hustling around, carrying and pushing carts of shoeboxes being delivered and stacking them high tables.

Wayman and her team delivered around 1,300 shoeboxes to Anthem Church, the central drop-off point for National Collection Week that started Monday.

"It’s amazing, what these boxes can do," she said.

More than 100 North Idaho Churches are contributing to the effort to collect 19,000 shoeboxes, most of which will go to children overseas. Last year, nearly 16,000 boxes were donated.

"These boxes, that’s probably the only gift they'll ever receive," said Erica Auten, OCC North Idaho area coordinator.

More than 5,000 shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, clothing, other surprises and a gospel message arrived on day one.

"That was an amazing first day," Auten said.

In the past 10 years, North Idaho has collected about 100,000 shoeboxes for OCC, with volunteers helping year-round.

Auten said the program has strong local support. Stories of children emptying piggy banks so they buy gifts to fill a shoebox or families foregoing presents so they can give to OCC have become common.

"I think people just love the cause,” she said. "They really just have the desire to help.”

Wayman said Hayden Bible Church held several workshops so crafters could come together to sew and crochet for OCC. 

"We have sewn easily over 300 dresses and skirts that have gone into these boxes," she said.

Boys will receive shorts and T-shirts, along with a soccer ball, pump and needle, from Hayden bible Church. Each box also includes a toothbrush, washcloth, bar of soap and school supplies.

From North Idaho, the boxes are delivered to Denver and from there, they will likely be shipped to Mexico, Puerto Rico and other places where children who live in poverty eagerly await them.

Samaritan’s Purse refers to the shoeboxes as " tangible expressions of God’s love to children in need."

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 209 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 170 countries and territories. This year, it hopes to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 11 million children. 

Auten believes OCC has worldwide impact thanks to the giving that starts at home.

"I love how it brings our community together," she said. "Everybody from different backgrounds, we all come together and work together."

Judy Kyker has been a prayer mobilization coordinators for OCC in North Idaho for several years. She came on board after retiring and wanted to do something that would "be a blessing to children around the world."

She said OCC offers the joy of giving and the joy of sharing her Christian faith.

"This is something that has eternal impact," Kyker said.

There's still time to get involved. It costs about $10 to fill a shoebox, which must be delivered to drop-off locations by Monday.

In Sagle, completed shoeboxes can be dropped off at New Song Bible Church, 470250 U.S. 95. Drop-off times are Sunday, Nov. 19, 1:30-4 p.m.; and on Monday, Nov. 20, 9-11 a.m. In Bonners Ferry, shoeboxes can be dropped off at Mountain Springs Church, 6789 Main St. Drop-off times are Sunday, Nov. 19, 8 a.m.-noon, and on Monday, 9 a.m.-noon.

In Spirit Lake, shoeboxes can be dropped off at the Hall residence, 89 W. Highway 54. Drop-off times are Sunday, Nov. 19, 2-4 p.m., and on Monday, Nov. 20, 9-11 a.m. In Hayden, shoeboxes can be dropped off at Anthem Church, 251 W Miles Ave., between 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, and between 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 20.

Auten has been chosen to travel to the Port of Spain in March to hand out shoeboxes to children. She said even better than presenting them will be watching them be opened.

Smiles, laughter, excitement and joy will make it a day to treasure.

"I can’t wait,” she said

   Alex Parenti carries shoeboxes into Anthem Church on Wednesday during Operation Christmas Child's National Collection Week.
   Erica Auten, Operation Christmas Child North Idaho area coordinator, and Mark King pray with others over the donated shoeboxes at Anthem Church on Wednesday

    Walt Allard, center, hands donated Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to Mike Wells, left, and John Arnold at Anthem Church on Wednesday.
   Volunteers stand in the middle of rows of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child at Anthem Church on Wednesday.

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