By Aleta Warren, Staff Writer
The Christmas spirit of giving is coming early to Union in the form of a cardboard shoebox filled with toys, candy and a school supplies.
Operation Christmas Child is a project by the Samaritan’s Purse that delivers presents in shoeboxes to 8 million children each year in more than 100 countries that suffer from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and/or poverty. The Samaritan’s Purse mission is “To demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
The organization lives out its mission by sending a total of 85 million shoeboxes to 130 countries since the creation of the project in 1993.
Union has already shown its support for Operation Christmas Child by holding a 5k Run and Spirit Walk on Sep. 26 to help raise money for the project. Campus and Community Day on Nov.1 showed its Christmas giving spirit by involving students and staff members such as Ashley Jackson, resident director of Female Quads Complex and Student Services, to help pack and prepare many of the present-boxes.
“I support in numerous ways,” Jackson said.” First of all, my children collect all happy meal toys annually to donate. We also request that birthday gifts from friends be items that are accepted on the OCC list as well as items for local ministries such as RIFA.
This year at Titus’ first birthday we collected 3 bags of items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair clips, and socks.”
However, it is not to late for students to get involved. Students can volunteer and help prepare, pack and process shoeboxes during the National Collect Week, Nov. 14 – 21. To volunteer contact J.K. Jones at (731) 335-1749 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jackson encourages every student to participate.
“Students…need to learn that there are daily opportunities to sacrifice,” Jackson said. “The beauty of OCC is that you can simply visit the Dollar Tree for 15 minutes, spend $10.00, and you can easily create boxes blessing children. This would also be a great project to adopt as roommates seasonally or on a monthly basis.”
Samaritan’s Purse needs volunteers to prepare for collection week by getting their friends, families, community, businesses and churches involved. The organization needs students to pack and fill boxes with school supplies, toys, necessary items, letters of encouragement, pictures and $7 for shipping costs. Also students are needed to process the shoeboxes at a given collection site such as local churches.
Many churches in Jackson are involved in the operation and serve as drop-off locations for the boxes. Some of these churches involved include Browns United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, First Cumberland Presbyterian and First Baptist of Bemis Church.
Operation Christmas Child is an organization centered on spreading the love of God. Jackson’s enthusiasm and passion about the organization is clear.
“To know that you are touching a life and creating a moment for others to share the Gospel is amazing,” she exclaimed. “The realization that I am not just
sending these boxes out to random children but also future Union students is unbelievable. I had an RA who was raised in another country that received boxes annually, he explained to me how that was an annual highlight.”