EVANSTON — “This program grows unity in community,” Operation Christmas Child volunteer Judy Jones said about the worldwide program that delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 168 million children in more than 100 countries.
Volunteer Jill Bass added, “Currently we have five local churches involved and are hoping to add more this year. It is a tremendous amount of work but so rewarding.”
As stated on its web site, “Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. These are shipped outside the U.S. to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine and disease, and to children living on Native American reservations in the U.S.”
Operation Christmas Child was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. In 1993, the Wales-based company merged with Samaritan’s Purse. This merger allowed them to expand the gift of the shoeboxes to more than 28,000 children that year.
There are Operation Christmas Child projects in other cities in southwest Wyoming including Bridger Valley, Alpine, LaBarge, Rock Springs and Green River. All of the shoeboxes from southwest Wyoming are packed on pallets and driven by truck to Aurora, Colorado. From there they are shipped to the project’s main office in North Carolina before leaving the U.S.
Jones and Bass head up the local volunteer project in Uinta County. Jones said the local churches currently involved are Calvary Chapel, Evanston Alliance Church, Crossroads New Life Fellowship, Aspen Grove Church and St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church. Jones said they have had inquiries from other churches and hope to involve more this year. She added that Carrie Morash’s yoga students also volunteer to help pack shoeboxes.
They said shoeboxes are used because they are sturdy, gift items fit well in them and they are easy to ship. Typical items that are placed in the shoeboxes are pencils, a pencil sharpener, crayons or colored pencils, tablet and paper, a toothbrush, comb and brush, soap and washcloth, batteries, a small flashlight, miscellaneous toys and small bouncy balls.
Judy Jones is responsible for all the local program’s paperwork and accounting, recruiting churches and volunteers and managing the drop-off site. She sends completed accounting paperwork to Mindy France in Green River, who is the Southwest Wyoming Coordinator for the program.
Jill Bass is in charge of community relations and said this is her first year volunteering in an official capacity.
“Last year, our local project donated over 400 boxes and our goal this year is 600. The international program sent shoeboxes to 120 countries last year and hopes to send 12 million boxes to 125 countries this year,” Bass said.
“We have such a wonderful time coming together and filling the shoeboxes. It is heart-warming and fun,” Jones said.
Anyone interested in filling a shoebox can pick one up at For Pete’s Sake coffee shop at 900 Main St. or at Nueva Vida Church at 211 Overthrust Rd. from Nov. 18-25. The specific times for drop-off of donations will be announced in an ad in the Herald. Those interested may call Jones at (307) 679-6284 or Bass at (307) 677-1399.