‘Blessed by giving’Published 10:27am Thursday, November 5, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
One local school is getting a jump on giving this holiday season.
The Niles Adventist School is preparing for its annual shoe box gift collection, now in its 13th year as part of the “world’s largest Christmas project,” Operation Christmas Child.
The school serves as a collection site for the gifts, brought in from Niles area residents as well as 14 relay centers throughout the county who bring their collections to the school as a drop off point before being loaded onto semi trailers and delivered to children in need in more than 100 countries around the world.
“We fill semi trailers here at the school,” said volunteer area coordinator Esther Jones. “Last year we did 13,000 here and this year we’re hoping to do 15,000.”
Participants are asked to prepare a shoe box size gift, filling each box with school supplies, necessary personal items such as a bar of soap, as well as small toys and stuffed animals.
“We like to keep the integrity of that gift,” Jones said. Certain items are discouraged that could damage the box in transit, such as chocolate which could melt or shampoos or liquids which could spill.
Jones has personally seen the effects of what has been more than 103,000 boxed gifts delivered to children more than 13 years after being a part of the distribution when she traveled to the Dominican Republic.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” she said.
For the children at the Niles Adventist School, the collection week – which kicks off Nov. 16 and lasts through Nov. 23 – can be a rewarding experience as well.
Students do make up their own shoe box gifts if they are able but also help with unpacking cartons and even loading semi trailers.
Donators, Jones said, “are met with happy faces … We’ve got kids eager to meet the vehicles.”
She added that it is important for the children to see the adults working so hard to organize countless gifts, preparing them for delivery to children who might have never before experienced receiving a gift. “They look at us as contributors,” she said. “And we are blessed by giving … It exposes them to the need.
“It’s hard for us to imagine,” Jones continued. “That in Uganda for instance, crayons are $5 a box.”
Operation Christmas Child is a nationwide collection with churches, schools and other organizations taking place in all 50 states and other countries.
All together, according to the Samaritan’s Purse, which operates the project, gifts are hand delivered to more than 8 million children all over the world.
In addition to seeing boxes prepared for shipment and delivery, donators can also track their gift. Operation Christmas Child uses tracking technology, which will follow the boxes to their destination country. Donators can register their shoe box gifts using an EZ Give donation form at www.samaritanspurse.org.
Jones is optimistic in the goal for an increase in shoebox gift donations. “We’re getting more groups involved,” she said.
But perhaps even more importantly – “We’ve raised awareness,” Jones said.
For questions on how to put together a shoebox gift or get involved, e-mail Jones at email@example.com.
Local collection sites for Operation Christmas Child:
Niles Adventist School
110 N. Fairview St.
Monday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. to noon.
Tuesday, Nov. 17 through Thursday, Nov. 19, 2 to 4 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20, 1 to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21, 5 to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 22, noon to 5 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dowagiac First United Methodist Church
302 N. Lowe
Monday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. to noon
Tuesday, Nov. 17 through Thursday, Nov. 19, 9 a.m. to 4 :30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21, 10 a.m. to noon
Sunday, Nov. 22, 1 to 4 p.m.
For more information visit www.samaritanpurse.org.