A package the size of a shoe box is all it takes to make a world of difference to a child in a distant land.
And a Lawrence woman and her church are taking the lead in seeing just how many children's lives they can touch this holiday season with hundreds of gift-stuffed shoe boxes collected from the community.
Katie Studebaker, a member of First Christian Church, 1000 Ky., is leading the effort to gather as many shoe boxes as possible -- filled with small toys, school supplies and hygiene items -- as part of a campaign called Operation Christmas Child. The annual project is run by Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational, evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.
Samaritan's Purse, headquartered in Boone, N.C., is directed by Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham.
"What they do is they provide gifts to children in countries that are ravaged by war, disease and natural disasters. It's just a token to let those kids know that someone does care about them," said Studebaker, chairwoman of the Operation Christmas Child effort at First Christian.
"Most of them have never received a gift of any kind, and a lot of them are orphans. If they do have parents, they're usually very poor or unemployed and are in dire straits themselves."
This is the second year that her church -- which has participated in the campaign for the past five years -- will serve as a relay center, where people in the area can drop off their gift-filled shoe boxes Nov. 17-23 for collection and delivery to Samaritan's Purse.
Last year, members of First Christian assembled and donated 134 boxes of gifts, and people from Lawrence, Baldwin, Topeka and Hiawatha brought in 543 more.
"I would love to see our number of boxes double -- this year, I'd like to have 1,000 boxes from the community. It's just such a simple thing to do, but anybody who has a love for children would want to do it," Studebaker said.
|Those who would like to donate shoe boxes filled with small gifts for children ages 2 to 14, as part of Operation Christmas Child, may drop off their boxes at First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.Boxes may be dropped off Nov. 17-23 at the church's back door, where volunteers are working. Hours for collection are: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.Shoe boxes, or plastic containers that are the size of shoe boxes, should be used to contain the gift items. Boxes may be gift wrapped -- with the lid wrapped separately -- but not sealed. They can be secured shut with rubber bands.A $5 check per box, in order to pay shipping costs, is requested but not required.Participants should decide whether their boxes are for girls or boys and choose an age category: 2-4; 5-9; or 10-14.For a complete list of appropriate contents for gift boxes, visit the Web site at www.samaritanspurse.org and click on "How to Pack a Shoe Box."For more information about donating shoe boxes in the Lawrence area, contact Katie Studebaker at 842-1890.|
Three other Lawrence churches have already expressed interest in participating in the effort: First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway; First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive; and Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive.
A committee of six women at First Christian has delivered press kits and videos about Operation Christian Child to roughly 60 churches in the Lawrence area.
Shoe boxes collected at First Christian represent just a small part of the overall effort.
In 2002, Operation Christmas Child collected more than six million shoe boxes worldwide and distributed them to children in about 95 countries.
Studebaker and her husband, Paul, have assembled two shoe boxes of their own this year -- one for a girl, one for a boy.
"In a box that I did for a little girl in the 5-to-9 age group, I put in a T-shirt, a ball cap, a doll, crayons and pencils, a writing tablet, a hair clip, socks, pencil sharpeners, soap, wash rag, toothbrush and toothpaste. It's usually about $20 per box," she said.
Into each box that is delivered to Samaritan's Purse for distribution around the world will be place a copy of "The Greatest Gift of All," a Gospel booklet that was translated into 43 languages in 2001.
Studebaker feels compelled, year after year, to take part in the Operation Christmas Child effort.
"It's just touched my heart. To think of a child having nothing and living like these children live, it's amazing that they survive. And I think that they need help. In my life as a Christian, I think that's what God expects," she said.