Ally Bivens

(Fort Mill, S.C.) — In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse started their Operation Christmas Child program as a way for people to give gifts to children from around the world who are in need.

Normally, people would get a shoebox and information about the child and fill the box with gifts and then drop it off during collection week at a drop off location.

However, for many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited or taken away that option. This year, people who still wanted to be involved were able to build shoeboxes virtually.

“It’s a message of hope. It’s such a small gift, but when somebody is hopeless, that small gift lets them know that somebody cares about them and somebody loves them,” said Becki Jahn, a youth minister at All Saints Anglican Church.

Jahn said she was not able to volunteer at the packaging center due to the reduced number of opportunities and times this year.

Kayla Espana, a volunteer at the packaging center, said she had a similar issue.

“There were a lot more limited spots, because there can’t be as many people in the packaging center. So, it was hard for us to find a time to schedule to be at the center to volunteer,” Espana said.

“My group was a lot smaller than it was in previous years. When we were there, we had to wear mask and gloves and social distance,” she said.

Jorge Acevedo said building a shoebox online worked for him, even though it was different than how he would usually participate.

“Normally I would go out and shop for the gifts myself, but because of the coronavirus I felt unsafe doing that this time around. This year I built a box online. I virtually picked what I want to send for a 10 to 14-year-old boy, so I sent him a soccer ball, a Frisbee and a watch,” said Acevedo.

Acevedo said building the shoe box online was “convenient” and a “good way for people that are new to Operation Christmas Child to get involved.”

Caden White said he and his girlfriend take part in Operation Christmas Child every year.

“We grab two boxes from our local church and I do the boy’s box and my girlfriend does the girl’s box. Then we go to Walmart and purchase all the items, like toys and coloring books then deliver them back to our church,” White said. “I really enjoy doing Operation Christmas Child, because it makes me feel good to give back to others.”

The collection of Christmas shoeboxes has ended, but those who are interested can still virtually build one on the Samaritan’s Purse website year-round.