Students Hope Shoeboxes Bring Smiles
November 17, 2011
Though it was only mid-November, the sounds of Christmas could be heard coming from the Cannon Student Center recently as volunteers scurried around, filling shoeboxes with Christmas gifts for children in impoverished and war torn countries. On November 15th, approximately 40 students and several staff members enthusiastically participated in the Operation Christmas Child Packing Party – a joint effort of Volunteer Catawba and the Student Affairs Office.
With the work ethic and zeal of Santa's elves, these volunteers exceeded their initial goal of 200 shoeboxes and, by the end of the night, had packed 218 of the festive red and green boxes for Operation Christmas Child. The mission of this outreach program of the nonprofit organization, Samaritan's Purse, is to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Jay Laurens, Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values shared that Jan Gillean, Director of Student Activities, approached him several months ago to discuss ways in which student involvement in Operation Christmas Child could be increased. "It was already a successful initiative that many students looked forward to each year. The packing party simply provided the opportunity to take it to the next level. With more volunteers, we can help more children. That's what this is all about. "
Like other volunteers, sophomore Mario Parisi packed boxes, wrote notes to children, helped load the truck, and even attended a chapel service later that evening at which the items were dedicated. "This was a huge success in many ways. We surpassed our goal of 200 shoeboxes, which is amazing in itself. Even more, it was a great learning experience! Watching the videos and seeing how children in other countries are living put things into perspective for me. At first, it was saddening, but when I saw the number of college students who were willing to help, I couldn't help but feel that there really is hope. That's what these children need and long to receive. I couldn't be more happy or proud to have been a part of this Operation Christmas Child event!"
Junior Jeremy Gardner, who has assisted with Operation Christmas Child efforts for the past three years, could be found beaming with pride after the packing party. "Seeing other students' faces as we were filling boxes, listening to Christmas music, and just enjoying the opportunity to help others was truly amazing! Working together as part of this organization was great!" Junior Ashley Acken agreed, saying, "Catawba students from different classes and social groups came together for a great cause. While filling boxes with toys, toiletries, and candy, we added something else. We added love."
In addition to donating their time and energy - many students, faculty, and staff donated items to be packed in the shoeboxes. Still, the project would not have been a success without the support of the following local businesses and professionals who generously contributed items:;
- Dr. Kenneth Washko, DDS (toothbrushes) ;
- Dr. Don Fortner, DMD (toothbrushes) ;
- Dr. David Mayberry, DDS (toothpaste) ;
- Piedmont Candy Company (assorted candies) ;
- Kimball Screen Printing (t-shirts and sweatpants) ;
- Granite Knitwear (t-shirts) ;
- Aull Printing (notepads) ;
- Catawba College Bookstore (toy balls) ;
- Wal-Mart (toys, crayons, toothpaste, pencils) ;
- Chick-Fil-A (toys) ;
- Walgreen's (chapstick, pens, coloring books) ;
- CVS (toys, carrying bags) ;
- Office Depot (pens, markers, coloring books) ;
- Catawba College Student Affairs (gum, toys, toothpaste) ;
- Fleming Candy Company (assorted candies) ;
- Food Lion (assorted candies)
These businesses and others will likely receive a phone call early next fall, since many volunteers in the group were discussing the possibility of a goal of 500 boxes for next year's packing party!