Last Saturday, I got a call from Operation Christmas Child wondering if I’d be interested in volunteering at their Denver processing center.
I had actually called back in October to sign our care group up for volunteering but for the second year in a row, I thought about it too late and all of the volunteer spots were already taken. (For some reason, I’m just not thinking about Christmas in August when volunteer signup starts!) But I put our group on the waiting list, hoping that something would open up.
And it did. We’re heading down there tonight from 7 – 10 pm. This will be the third time Travis and I have volunteered with Operation Christmas Child and every year, it is so enjoyable and rewarding. So I’m very exciting for this opportunity.
A little about Operation Christmas Child:
It’s a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse – their mission statement reads: “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. They expect to collect 700,000 shoeboxes this year with the help of 7,000 volunteers to distribute to children all over the world. The map below shows all of the countries they have delivered shoeboxes to.
What goes in each shoebox?
The guidelines for the shoeboxes are pretty general. There are things that aren’t allowed - anything related to war or snakes, anything that will melt like chocolate or chapstick, and anything that is dangerous. But otherwise, the giver gets to choose what to give. Common gifts are hygiene items (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, nail polish); small toys (marbles, stuffed animals, dolls, playing cards); books and Bibles; and markers, crayons and pencils. Givers are also encouraged to write a personal note to the child and even include a picture of themselves.
For many of the children receiving these shoeboxes, this is the only Christmas present they have ever received.
What do we do in the processing center?
When we arrive, we sign in and go through a short orientation that lasts 10-15 minutes. Then, our group is assigned to a station where there are 4-5 different jobs.
The first job is to open the shoebox, take out the $7 donation that covers the expenses of shipping the box, and make sure that the appropriate gender and age is marked on the shoebox label.
The second job is to respectfully go through the contents of the box to make sure that it contains none of the restricted items above.
The third job is to fill or refill the box with toys at the station, so that each shoebox is full of goodies for the child who receives it.
The fourth job is to tape the shoebox closed.
The fifth job is to pack the boxes as well as possible into bigger cardboard boxes, and seal those once they’re full.
In the past, I’ve done one of the first 3 jobs. Travis is usually a taper or packer.
We didn’t donate a shoebox this year, because our church has teamed up with Denver Social Services to give gifts to underprivileged kids in our local community. But we have in the past, and I think this organization is absolutely wonderful. If you’re looking for a place to give a gift or serve next Christmas, check out Operation Christmas Child.
Are you volunteering anywhere in honor of Christmas?