Area families and individuals have been packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for years. It’s a good feeling to know that these gifts of toys, games and school and hygiene supplies will be hand-delivered to children in need around the world.
Then there are the people who would like to show their love and make a child’s life better — people who are homeless or living on incomes so limited there is simply nothing left to give no matter how much they might want to.
The Homeless Shoebox Packing Party, now in its fourth year, offers that chance to give. Organizers from local churches, with the help of community donations, shop year-round for supplies. They provide the boxes, the snacks and music and open the event up for people who are homeless and anyone who wants to pack a box.
“The great thing is that some of the people packing the shoeboxes could not have afforded the items but are able to put love and care into packing the boxes and putting personal messages in them,” said Mike Buffie, one of the organizers.
“Many of the people have missed parts of their childhood for many different reasons and giving something to a child who might not ever have received a gift before is very special and meaningful to them, as it is to anyone who packs a Christmas Child box.”
This year’s event took place at the Family Church in Vernon Nov. 18 during the time which is usually The Ark drop-in coffee house.
“It was so fun packing a shoebox for a kid way less fortunate than me. It was a really cool experience,” said Jeff, 23, who is homeless. “After the party last year, I saved some money and bought a teddy bear and drew a picture of it and put them in a shoebox for a kid this year. Just being there with everyone and making it a party and packing the boxes and thinking about the kids who can use the toys and the love made me feel like everyone was in the same community.”
People watched a film about the boxes being delivered, clearly moved by the surprise and delight of the children who received the gifts.
Then, with music on and popcorn ready, it was time to choose the gifts to go in the boxes. The boxes are labeled for boys or girls in different age categories. Some people went to the gift tables and made their choices decisively, while others seemed more thoughtful, maybe remembering Christmases past of their own. Most wrote messages to be included with the gifts.
That done, it was time to enjoy goodies and socializing.
The Homeless Shoebox Packing Party filled 200 boxes which will be sent to Africa, Haiti and Central and South America. Operation Christmas Child delivered more than eight million boxes around the world last year with 700,000 coming from Canada.