Operation Christmas Child: Hope in a shoebox

Operation Christmas Child focuses on collecting shoeboxes filled with various items for children, ages 2-14, who are less fortunate. Each shoe box also contains the book “The Greatest Journey,” which tells about Jesus. Pictured are volunteers (from left): Sue Kaneski, Helen Monson, Coordinator Blanche Tirk and Celeste Miller at the American Lutheran Church in Long Prairie.

    Socks are just one item many people just take for granted, said Kim Mielke, coordinator of the Operation Christmas Child drop-off location in Little Falls.

    But to some people, a pair of clean socks can mean so much more.

    Operation Christmas Child is a program that was initiated by Samaritan’s Purse. Each year, thousands of shoeboxes are collected nationwide to benefit children across the world, who are less fortunate.

    “One boy who got socks in his shoebox was rubbing his face with them. We think of socks as something normal, but for someone who doesn’t have any, they are special,” Mielke said.

    Each year a specific country is selected. Mielke said it is unknown to what country the shoeboxes will travel to this year.

    “Only the higher up people know. It’s for security reasons they don’t say it right away,” Mielke said.

    Some of the countries the boxes tarveled to are Honduras, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and more.

    The boxes are filled with age appropriate items and marked whether it is geared for a girl or a boy. Samaritan’s Purse suggests that donors start with including “a quality ‘wow”’ item, such as a stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a clothing outfit that will capture the child’s attention the instant he or she opens the box.” A list of gift suggestions for various age groups, such as jump ropes, toy cars, dolls, sunglasses, watches, notebooks, crayons, markers, washcloths, clothing, is available at www.samaritanspurse.org.

    For many children, receiving a shoebox means so much more than the material items inside. To Ted Foreman, who stayed at an orphanage in the former Soviet Union for the majority of his childhood, it was a symbol of hope. He was 9 when Operation Christmas Child came to the government-operated orphanage in 1999.

    “I was so amazed. Before I could even open the gift, I was so overwhelmed with the thought that somebody actually loved and cared about me. It gave me so much hope,” Foreman said.

    There are some items Samaritan’s Purse ask people to refrain from including, such as toothpaste, candy, toy guns, knives, military figures, liquids, aerosol cans, breakable items and more.

    From Thursday, Nov. 13 to Monday, Nov. 20, locations in Little Falls and Long Prairie will be open for people to drop off filled shoeboxes.

    Drop off hours at the Faith Lutheran Church, located at 303 18th St. SE, in Little Falls are Monday, Nov. 13 and Tuesday Nov. 14, from 9 a.m. - noon; Wednesday, Nov. 15 and Thursday, Nov. 16, from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. - noon; Saturday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 19, from 9 a.m. - noon. For more information, call (320) 414-0533.

    Drop-off hours at the American Lutheran Church, 215 Ninth Street SE in Long Prairie are Monday, Nov. 13, from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 16, from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 17, from 2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 18, from 9:30 a.m. - noon; Sunday, Nov. 19, from 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 20, from 8:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. For more information, call (320) 732-2932.

Staff writer

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