by Mickey Smith
A lot of items can be fitted into a shoebox, but for these special boxes the most important may be the love that is sent to a needy child.
Operation Christmas Child is the official name of the shoebox program run by the Charlotte, NC-based Samaritan’s Purse and over the past 20 years they have sent over 100 million boxes to over 130 countries around the world.
Locally, the Lamoille Valley Grace Brethren Church, located on the corner of Upper Main and Maple Street in Morrisville, is the collection center for any organization or individual who wants to prepare a box and send it along through the program.
Pastor Ethan Kallberg said the church became involved with the program about five years ago. Back then, he coordinated the efforts and that first year they collected about 120 boxes. Since then it has grown every year and he handed the reins over to Jackie Begin. This past year she collected 580 boxes (100 more than last year) to ship out.
Officially the boxes are collected and shipped the third week of November, but Pastor Kallberg said it’s a year long project to coordinate and create the boxes. This past year they had a giant box in Morrisville’s Fourth of July Parade to help the spread the word.
While the Grace Brethren Church does the collecting, it has become an ecumenical effort as Kallberg said several area churches put together boxes to be sent. Scout troops and schools have even gotten involved with preparing boxes.
The boxes are labeled by age and sex. Inside, box builders can put anything they want... suggestions include: toys, candy, and toiletries. They encourage the sender to include a photo and a note for a personal touch. The only exclusion they ask is no toy guns/soldiers, as many of the boxes go to war- torn countries where that represents the strife they deal with on a regular basis.
Once the boxes are packed, they are collected at the church and sent to the Charlotte processing center. Through contacts, religious and community leaders, they have made around the world the proper number of sex and age specific boxes are sent to that community. Kallberg said the boxes are checked to make sure nothing is leaking, broken or inappropriate, but other than that they “don’t mess with the integrity of the box.” He explained they don’t collect items and repackage them, they want each box to be an individual gift to and from a specific person.
For more information about the project, or to get a jump start on a box for next year, call the Lamoille Valley Grace Brethren Church at 888-3339.