MCPHERSON — Working at her sewing machine, Patsy Magelssen imagines the thrill a child must feel when she opens a shoebox and watches love pour out from halfway around the world.
"I can't see the faces, but I can imagine the joy it will create," she said.
The 67-year-old mom, grandma and lifelong volunteer is helping Operation Christmas Child, an international relief project that sends shoeboxes filled with toys, gifts, hygiene supplies and candy to children around the world.
"It is one of the best organizations that I have ever come in contact with," Magelssen said. "You kind of have to be a kid yourself to get excited about this."
Magelssen, who founded the nonprofit Trash to Treasure ministry in 1979, and 15 other retired women make about 6,000 items a year for various causes, using new materials that otherwise would have been thrown away.
"I really feel it's my job. God has given me a gift to sew, and I use this as a way of using my talents," Magelssen said.
She buys end-of-season items from retailers and gets discarded materials from factories and donations of fabric from individuals.
The women meet twice a month in the parlor at Countryside Covenant Church in McPherson.
"We make little purses, silky scarves, pajamas, all kinds of stuffed animals," she said.
The women make walker bags and lap robes, pillows and rag dolls for nursing homes; quilts, dresses and jumpers for children for the United Methodist Church Klothes Kloset, Wichita; and hospital gowns for terminally ill children.
For the past eight years, Trash to Treasure has been a supplier for Operation Christmas Child, filling up to 1,673 shoeboxes a year - 1,408 this year.
The group's collection recently was delivered to a relay center in McPherson, contributing to the project headed by Franklin Graham, the eldest son of Rev. Billy Graham.
Operation Christmas Child began in 1990 as a ministry to orphans in Romania. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization, took on the project in 1993. Last year, the project collected 7.6 million boxes.
"That only scratches the surface of the need," said Mary Lister, local volunteer coordinator at CrossRoads Church in Salina.
Thirteen relay centers from Brewster to Manhattan and McPherson to Concordia recently delivered boxes to the north-central Kansas collection center at CrossRoads Church.
This is the eighth year for CrossRoads Church to be involved. More than 8,200 shoebox gifts were loaded into two semitrailers last year.
"We take a shoebox and fill it with small gifts, things we would ordinarily buy for stocking stuffers for children or grandchildren," Lister said.
The boxes, tagged for boys or girls and age groups - 2 to 4, 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 - may include personal items such as a comb, pencils, crayons and hard candies.
They're sent to countries around the world where children are suffering from war, poverty, disease or natural disasters.
"We want to bring some color into their world," Lister said.
Shoeboxes from Kansas this year are going to Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Mongolia.
"We ask that people wrap the boxes with the lids separate. They can't be sealed," Lister said.