The Community Support Shoppe in East Bloomfield recently transformed from a secondhand retail store to Santa’s workshop, complete with holiday music, frosted sugar cookies, and red and green decorations.
People gathered to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in need around the world through Operation Christmas Child.
“I was looking for ways to get involved in such a way that would help unite people,” said Stacey Minute, of Farmington, who organizes the annual event. “I fell in love with Operation Christmas Child, because it’s a fun and easy way to have a great impact.”
Minute shared her idea with Kim Parsons Colletta, who manages the Community Support Shoppe, an initiative of New Hope Fellowship that benefits local residents in need. They collected donations, shoeboxes and volunteers, and promoted the event to people in the area.
Mary Cole, of Farmington, brought her two children to teach them giving to others. They filled boxes with items from the table covered with crayons, pencils, stuffed animals, washcloths, soap, clothing, jump ropes, dolls, toy cars and notebooks.
“There are a lot of kids in the world that don’t have as much as some,” said 11-year-old Dennis Cole Jr., who wrote a note to the child and placed it in the box. “These gifts will show that God and a lot of other people care for them.”
Madison Trickey, of Clifton Springs, said she is inspired by the mission of Operation Christmas Child.
“I actually enjoyed shopping for the children who will receive these shoeboxes, because the impact can be life-changing,” she said.
Run by Samaritan’s Purse since 1993, Operation Christmas Child is a national project where people fill boxes with school supplies, hygiene items and toys for children experiencing war, poverty or natural disasters.
To date, 167 million shoebox gifts have gone to more than 150 countries. In some countries, children are not allowed to attend school because they lack basic supplies like paper and pencils. The school supplies packed in shoeboxes are enough for many to start their formal education. In many cases, the boxes are the gift the children have ever received.
“For me, it brings joy to share the things we take for granted,” said Mary Lou Dosiek, of Victor. “For us, the things we put in the shoeboxes aren’t very much, but it’s so big to them.”
The regular-sized shoeboxes can be cardboard or plastic. Donors should decide the age — 2-4, 5-9, 10-14 — and gender of the child. Each box needs a “wow” item like a doll, soccer ball or stuffed animal, and be filled with hygiene items, school supplies, games, toys and other small items. The boxes can include a photo and note, if desired.
Drop off shoeboxes at collection centers during National Collection Week on Nov. 18-25. Be sure to include $9 for shipping.
Email occshoeboxjoy@gmail.com for information and volunteer opportunities.