The holiday season is often coined as the ‘season for giving’— and Alicen Freeman, sophomore and Warren ASWU representative, wanted to bring that spirit of giving and generosity to Whitworth. Every semester, the student residence halls at Whitworth are required to coordinate a service project, and Freeman and other student residence leadership picked Operation Christmas Child as the project for the 2013 holiday season. Arend Hall did an Operation Christmas Child event as a dorm project in November. Now, Warren Hall is doing Operation Christmas Child as its dorm project and has developed it into a campus-wide project with other dorms, students and faculty expressing interest and participating.
“So far, staff have been super excited about it, and clubs and other dorms want to get involved,” Freeman said.
Students who are interested in making a shoe box for a child pick the gender and age range of the receiving child in order to pack the most age-appropriate gifts.
“You really want to include stuff that you might have wanted when you were a kid,” Freeman said.
The shoe boxes then go all around the world to underprivileged children in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific Islands.
Shoe box packers can then track their shoe box if they donate on the Samaritan’s Purse website.
When making the shoe box, students are encouraged to include seven dollars to cover the cost of international shipping, Freeman said.
Upon receiving the shoe box, the child is then enrolled in a 12-week program to learn about Christianity, Freeman said.
“Not only is this something like their first gift they have ever received, but they get to learn about the salvation of Jesus Christ,” Freeman said.
After the children complete the program, they receive a Bible in their native language, Freeman said.
“This program is great because once the child learns about Jesus, they tell their friends and their parents and it just spreads,” Freeman said.
Operation Christmas Child was started by the evangelical Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse, with a mission to help those in need in war-torn, famine, disease and poverty stricken areas with monetary and other kinds of assistance, while spreading the message of the love of God, according to the Samaritan’s Purse website.
Volunteers collect donations and buy toys, clothes and hygiene products to fill shoe boxes to send to underprivileged children to over 130 different countries. Since the founding of the program in 1993, 100 million shoe boxes have been sent.
Emily Witthuhn, junior and Arend senator, brought Operation Christmas Child to Arend for the Arend service project. During a Prime Time Nov. 10. Twenty-three Arend residents participated in making 19 shoe boxes, Witthuhn said.
“Some of the RAs and I were interested in this project as well as many residents and we thought it would be fun for the whole dorm to participate in,” Witthuhn said. “It was so encouraging to see the Arend community come together to serve, especially during the holiday season.”
The evangelical outreach with the program is really what makes it special, junior Rebecca Jepsen said.
“The children are not only getting gifts, but they get an explanation for the love behind the gifts and a lot of children become Christians because of the shoe boxes,” Jepsen said.
More tangible toys are ideal, such as teddy bears or dolls, “so the kids can feel and hold God’s love,” Freeman said.
Recommended items include school supplies, basic clothes like T-shirts and socks, toothbrushes and soap bars. War-related toys such as toy guns should be avoided in order to be sensitive to the recipient, Freeman said.
And the gifts in the shoe boxes don’t have to be expensive.
“We got most of our toys and supplies from Target and the Dollar Tree this year,” Jepsen said. It’s not about having fancy gifts, but about helping the child make the connection between the gifts they receive in the shoe box and the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ, Jepsen said.
“But the best thing you can do is pray— pray for the shoe box, and pray for the child receiving it,” Freeman said.
Operation Christmas Child functions year-round, so students have the opportunity to volunteer throughout the year to promote and pray for the cause or work in one of the processing centers in larger cities around the country.
The Warren shoe box packing party will be Nov. 23 from 8-10 p.m. Nov. 18-25 is the national collection week for Operation Christmas Child is. Drop-off locations for shoe boxes will be in the HUB during this time.
Shelby Harding Staff Writer
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