The spirit of giving

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Linda Queen, left, helps Zoe Gorton, 10, Grace Zimmerman, 9, and another child pack their shoeboxes Tuesday for Operation Christmas Child at Crossroads Church. The church aimed to pack 300 shoeboxes by the end of the night to send to children in need across the world. — Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Christmas may still be more than a month away, but that hasn’t stopped some local churches from already getting into the giving spirit.

At least 150 people gathered Tuesday evening at Crossroads Church in Albert Lea to load up shoeboxes full of items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, toys, soap, school supplies and candy. The shoeboxes will be sent as part of Operation Christmas Child to impoverished children across the globe.

Susan Kliment, children’s ministry volunteer at Crossroads, said this is the second year for the church to participate in the event. This year, church members hoped to fill 300 boxes, she said.

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“Generosity really blesses somebody, and it’s not hard to do,” Kliment said.

Elizabeth Waters, 11, and Natania Raatz, 8, fill out a sheet of paper about themselves to stick in a box that will be sent to another country as part of Operation Christmas Child. — Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Operation Christmas Child was started in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse. Every year, the organization sends shoebox gifts to children suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, famine and poverty.
Kliment said at Crossroads families donated most of the items, and a local dentist donated all of the toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“I hope they learn how fortunate they are and how a really simple thing can bless another child,” Kliment said.

On Tuesday, church members — many of whom were children — were given one clear plastic shoebox at a time, along with the age of a child they were to fill the box for.

Then, they walked around to a series of tables and picked up items to put into the boxes. Finally, before handing off the boxes to another volunteer to send off, they filled out a questionnaire about themselves to include in the box.

“I think it’s really fun because I’m doing things for other people,” said 9-year-old Grace Zimmerman, who was packing a box for a 3-year-old girl along with friend Zoe Gorton.

Completed boxes will be taken to First Baptist Church in Albert Lea, which is a collection site for the project for people in Freeborn County and northern Iowa.

From Albert Lea, the boxes will go to a distribution center in the Twin Cities. After checking the boxes there, additional volunteers will disperse the boxes across the world. Kliment said though she does not know what country the boxes will go to, she and the others can track their gifts online if they choose.

Kliment said an anonymous donor has contributed the cost of mailing each of the 300 boxes — $7 each.
Kliment said people can still donate to the cause by bringing in boxes through Monday at noon at First Baptist Church.

First Baptist Church has taken part in Operation Christmas Child for at least seven or eight years.