NAMPA, Idaho — It may be the middle of summer, but a group of local ladies is already getting ready for Christmas. Each year, they get together to pack boxes for a special organization that brings joy to kids all over the world. It's called Operation Christmas Child.
Shirley Florance, the area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, and her group of volunteers from New Hope Baptist Church in Nampa are hard at work packing festive red and green boxes.
"The boxes go to needy children in over 150 countries just in time for Christmas," Florance said.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry and outreach project created by Samaritan's Purse in 1993, and it's been growing ever since. Churches and thousands of volunteers around the world pack shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for children in need. Since 1993, more than 209 million children in more than 170 countries have received one.
"Last year New Hope Baptist Church packed over 500," Florance said.
There is something extra special in these boxes packed in Nampa.
"We put 'The Shoes That Grow' in each box," volunteer Sharon Yoast said.
The Shoes That Grow were created by Idaho man Kenton Lee. In 2007, while in Kenya on a mission trip, he saw the dire need for children's shoes that would last. That is how the idea for the shoe that grows was born, and it was born right here in Nampa, Idaho, at what is now, the nonprofit organization Because International.
What makes this shoe so innovative is that is grows five sizes, and can last for years. Lee spoke to the ladies from the church in Nampa. They said that they knew the shoes would be the perfect addition to their shoeboxes.
"We have been putting the shoes that grow in every single one of our Operation Christmas Child boxes that we can," Yoast said. "From there, we add Ivory soap because it floats. Sometimes these children do not have a bathroom and if they have to wash in a pond, river or stream, they can find their soap easily. The toothbrushes, we used to give one, but now we've been blessed to give three. We were told the children are sharing these toothbrushes with their family members, so we thought at least we could give them three. The pencils we started out giving one, but we have promoted to six this year."
The ladies also add small toys and books to the boxes.
"We just stuff them in wherever we can with the toys, and we try to put in a spiral notebook for school. and crayons and coloring books," Yoast said.
Each item is packed with love and care. One of the women, Susan Mabey, even puts together sewing kits for the girls.
"Having taught sewing for many years, I thought, that's right down my alley," Mabey said. "I put in it the things that they would need to repair clothes in case something gets torn, or a button goes missing."
They are working on packing the boxes now, to make sure they are ready for the holiday season. These women have a big goal.
"We would love to send 600 shoeboxes from New Hope Baptist Church, with shoes included in each box," Florance said.
The ladies are dedicated to giving kids in need around the world a better life.
If your family would like to put together your own Operation Christmas Child box, you can. You may want to include The Shoe That Grows, too. You can buy them for $20, and get them shipped to you, or pick them up in person at Because International's headquarters in Nampa.
To contact Shirley Florance for more information on getting involved with Operation Christmas Child, you can email her at email@example.com.
To find The Shoe That Grows on Facebook, click here.
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