By Ciara Conley
Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is underway for its fourth year at Shawnee State University (SSU) with over 1,000 boxes packed.
Operation Christmas Child operates through the Samaritans Purse organization, and has been in operation since 1993.
“We pack simple things like notebooks, pens, pencils, soaps, toothbrushes, things that we take for granted and wouldn’t think of as a big gift,” said Tiffany Pistole. Pistole is a Spanish professor at Shawnee State University, she is also the supervisor for SSU’s Operation Christmas Child club and a year-round volunteer with the organization. “These kids just love and treasure these items.”
The club packaged 500 boxes for boys on Sept. 26 and 500 boxes for girls on Sept. 27. The club plans to package another 1,500 boxes in November.
“We collect items all throughout the year, we have donation boxes on campus,” said Pistole. “Some of the Professors donate online and pay to ship some of the boxes.”
National Collection Week is November 14-21. If you are interested in donating items to be used in the boxes, you can log on to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ to find a drop-off center nearest you. If you happen to be on the campus of SSU, there are donation boxes on the first floor of the Morris University Center.
“If people can’t get out to pack a shoe box at a volunteer center, maybe someone who lives at Hillview or Heartland and can’t get out, they can go online and pack a box that way,” explained Gaylene St. Leger Cox. Cox is also a year-round volunteer, and covers media in ten counties in South Eastern Ohio. “They can pick out the items that go in the box, and purchase them online. They can follow their box and see where they’re shipped as well.”
Since 1993, more than 135 million boxes have been shipped to over 150 countries in 75 languages.
Both Pistole and Cox have received heart-wrenching letters and stories from the families impacted by the boxes.
“Last year, 30 cargo containers went to Peru, and it took 30 days to get them from the docks to the jungles,” said Cox. “Not one child who received those boxes had a pair of shoes. Every single box had a pair of flip flops, we just take these things for granted. I heard from a little fellow in Ukraine, and in his orphanage, they got baths once a week. All the kids shared a single-towel and by the time it got to him, it was always wet. When he got a washcloth in his box, he thought it was his own towel and he was overjoyed, just to have a simple wash cloth. A lot of these kids have absolutely nothing.”
Pistole had a similar experience, when she received a Facebook message from Malawi.
“It said ‘blessings to you, Tiffany, Jeremiah and Lily, we got your shoe box.’ It was a guy in Malawi, and his little girl had received our box. I’ve been in contact with him for over a year now. It’s really cool to see that these are going to families and kids who need them. Every now and again you might be lucky enough to hear back from them.”
The boxes are divided by age range each includes essential items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, and clothing items. They also include a gift-item like plush toys for small children, small games for younger children, balls and fishing or tools kits for older children. They also contain gospel and discipleship information. Children ages 2 to 14 are eligible to receive the boxes.
Pistole made drawstring bags for the boxes, so the recipients have a place to keep their items. Pistole’s grandmother collected beads, and during their home care visits with her, she and Lily would use the beads to make bracelets. “She passed last month, but it’s nice to know her legacy will continue on with these bracelets,” said Pistole.
One volunteer handmade stuffed animals for the boxes. Others have donated knitted and crocheted hats, scarves and other items.
“A lot of love and prayer goes into these boxes,” said Cox.
According to Pistole, the group is still looking for volunteers for the November boxing session.
“A lot of our volunteers graduated,” Pistole explained. “We had to get a head start on packing this year, to get the word out and spread interest in the club so we can pack our 1,500 boxes in November and plan for next year. They can just email me at [email protected], or find our Facebook group ‘Operation Christmas Child at SSU.’
For more information, you can go online to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ, Facebook “Operation Christmas Child at SSU,” or by emailing Tiffany Pistole at [email protected], interested parties can also call Gaylene St. Leger Cox at 330-904-5873.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley – Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.