On November 13th, over 100 volunteers participated in the second annual Operation Christmas Child Packing Party — a joint effort of Volunteer Catawba and the Student Affairs Office. The smell of fresh popped popcorn and hot chocolate — as well as the sound of familiar Christmas tunes — filled the air, as energetic "elves" packed a total of 360 gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child. These gifts will be distributed to children in impoverished and war torn countries by Samaritan's Purse, a nonprofit organization with the mission of sharing God's love and in a tangible way with needy children around the world.
Junior Kimberly Weemhoff is an Operation Christmas Child veteran and worked putting boxes together at the beginning of the assembly line during the party. "This is a great way for us to help others around the world during a season that is all about giving. I've been involved with Operation Christmas Child since I was in my church youth group. I love that I can still experience this as a junior in college. The packing party is one of my favorite volunteer projects, because so many people are willing to help." Sophomore Greg Alexander — who joined others in writing notes to children and filling boxes with school supplies, toys, clothing supplies, and hygiene supplies — echoed Kimberly's sentiments. "It was humbling to see so many of my friends and fellow students offering their time to help make this happen," he said.
Junior James Everidge and sophomore Andrew McCollister marveled at how a seemingly small amount of effort by our Catawba volunteers can have a significant impact in the world. "It's so easy for us to give back, but it really is a big deal for the children who receive each and every box. By having this packing party on campus, every student who wanted to make a difference could do just that," said Everidge. McCollister added, "It always amazes me that, with such a small amount of effort, we can make a big difference. It makes me realize we could do more."
"Doing more" was a focus of those who planned this year's party. The group set an aggressive goal of packing 300 boxes – a 50% increase over last year — and easily exceeded it. In addition to donating their time and energy — many students, faculty, and staff donated items to be packed in the shoeboxes. Still, Jay Laurens (Coordinator of Outreach Program for Catawba's Lilly Center) stressed that the project would not have been a success without the generosity of the following local businesses and professionals who generously contributed items:
- Innes Street Drug (assorted foam sports balls) ;
- Dr. Kenneth Washko (toothbrushes) ;
- Kimball Screen Printing (t-shirts, caps, and sweat pants) ;
- Fleming Candy Company (candy) ;
- Drs. Fortner, Lomax, and Bray (toothbrushes) ;
- Lowe's (flashlights and batteries) ;
- McDonald's (assorted toys) ;
- Sonic Drive-in (assorted toys) ;
- Aull Printing (notepads) ;
- Wal-Mart (assorted toys and school supplies) ;
- Walgreens (assorted toys and candy) ;
- Office Depot (assorted school supplies) ;
- Food Lion (candy) ;
- Harris Teeter (assorted school supplies) ;
- Cracker Barrel (crayons) ;
- Biscuitville (crayons) ;
- Catawba College's Student Affairs Office, Lilly Center, Bookstore, Financial Aid Office, and School of Evening and Graduate Studies. (assorted school supplies and toys)
Jan Gillean (Director of Student Activities) described the packing party as "a loaves and fishes kind of experience." "It seemed as if the donated items just kept increasing as students packed the boxes," she exclaimed. Following the party, all of the gift boxes were taken to Omwake-Dearborn Chapel and blessed during the campus worship service. By the following morning the boxes had been picked up and were well on their way to brightening the faces and lives of 360 children.
PHOTOS: 2012 Shoebox Packing Party