Students at St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School recently gathered in the gymnasium to fill shoeboxes for less-fortunate children.
Principal Kasee Lambring showed a short video to the students so they could see what the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child program is all about.
“I wanted the kids to see the reactions of these children across the world receiving their shoeboxes, as this is sometimes the only gift they will ever receive,” Lambring said. “Part of Operation Christmas Child is when they receive the boxes, they are also taught about Jesus and the Gospel.”
She said that ties in with the chapel offering that’s taken each Wednesday when the students go to the nearby church for a chapel service.
“Every nine weeks, we focus on a different organization to donate our chapel offerings to, and the first nine weeks of this school year, our offerings went to Operation Christmas Child,” she said. “Any money collected on chapel Wednesdays, plus along with monetary offerings during the month of September, our students brought in items to fill the shoeboxes. We assigned each classroom a different type of item to bring in.”
Preschool brought in crayons, markers and coloring books, kindergarten through second grade brought small toys for ages 2 to 5, third through sixth grades brought personal care items, such as combs, washcloths, toothbrushes and bandages, and seventh and eighth grades assembled the shoeboxes that were to be filled at the school.
“To share with the kids the importance of giving back, we are filling the shoeboxes together as a school,” Lambring said. “Our enrollment K-5 is 85, so we hope to fill about 85 shoeboxes.”
After the boxes were filled, each student stopped by a station to pick up a letter to include in their shoebox.
“They’ll write their name, that they’re from Indiana and a little bit about themselves so when the child opens up the box, they’ll know where the gift came from, and it adds a little personal touch to it,” Lambring said.
Kindergartner Eva Percival wrote in her letter that her favorite color is pink, her favorite food is pizza and she likes to read books and play dodgeball.
Third-grader Alli Dulaney said in her letter, she wrote, “Hi. My name is Alli. It’s very nice to meet you. I’m 9 years old, and I like to draw.”
Olivia Darlage, also in third grade, said she thinks the children will be very excited when they open their shoeboxes.
Owen Wischmeier and Trey Sweany, both eighth-graders, enjoyed filling their shoeboxes and writing letters.
“I think it’s great to help the kids who don’t have anything and let them know we care about them,” Wischmeier said. “It would be pretty sad for them to not have Christmas presents, but I think when they open these gifts, they’ll feel happiness and joy.”
Other local organizations have been filling shoeboxes. That includes Tampico Baptist Church.
On Sunday, 13 people gathered in the sanctuary of the church following the service and a meal. Several tables were set up, stacked with toys, hygiene items, coloring books, crayons, flashlights and more to fill shoeboxes.
Church member Janette Elliott helped coordinate the Operation Christmas Child shoebox project there.
“The items here are from people in our church, and we also received money from individuals so we could buy some things for the shoeboxes,” Elliott said. “This is around our fifth year to participate in this project, and we start preparing in July when the school supplies come out, stocking up on items when they’re on sale.”
Richard Rieckers, logistics coordinator for southeast Indiana’s Operation Christmas Child, also was at the church.
“Something I’ve learned through the years is to include bowls in the boxes,” Rieckers said. “We found out that some of the kids will go through the food line and have to use their hands. Then if the food was too hot, they’d drop it and have to eat it off the floor.”
So he is emphasizing to organizations how helpful it would be for the children if a bowl or cup could be included in each shoebox.
The Rev. Ralph McVay and his wife, Carol, were there to help pack shoeboxes, too.
“The most impressive thing to me about this is the participation,” McVay said. “In our little church, everybody helps with this in one way or another, even if they can’t be here. This year, they’re tracking the boxes so we can find out what part of the world these boxes go.”
Also participating in the shoebox packing was church member Jerry Boling. He said what he likes about this particular project is the fact it’s for underprivileged children throughout the world.
“We try to give them things that can help them and hopefully make their life a little bit better,” he said.
Jackie Kidd put labels on the filled boxes at the front of the sanctuary. The labels contained the age group the box was for and if the items inside were for a girl or boy.
Kidd said she wanted to help with the project because she has watched Franklin Graham on television and it’s really inspiring what he does for the children.
“We’ve done this for five year, and the most we’ve had in our church at once is around 19 people, so to get almost 80 boxes is pretty incredible,” she said. “We’re packing some flashlights, too, and that goes along with sharing the light of Jesus.”
At the end of the day, Tampico Baptist Church members had packed a total of 76 shoeboxes to be taken to a drop-off location at Medora Wesleyan Church.