Donors fill shoe boxes with holiday spirit

SYCAMORE – A year ago, the Daniel and Beth Hoffman family donated a shoe box to Operation Christmas Child. This year, they decided to do something different: volunteer.

“I thought it would be good for my boys to help this way,” Beth Hoffman said. “It’s a good cause I believe in.”

As people drove up to the First Baptist Church of Sycamore last Thursday morning, Beth and her two sons, Cooper, 14, and Tucker, 11, helped unload their vehicles.

“I thought I was going to have to make seven or eight trips,” said Jennifer Kallas, who dropped off 22 boxes from the Waterman Presbyterian Church. “But these young men took them all.”

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, the largest Christmas project of its kind in the world. According to its website, “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.” Formed by evangelist Bob Pierce in 1970, the group is now headed by Franklin Graham, the oldest son of Rev. Billy Graham. Since 1993, more than 94 million shoe box gifts have been delivered to children in more than 130 countries.

Donors choose to make a box for a boy or a girl in a specific age range. Then they fill shoe boxes with a variety of gifts, including toys, school supplies, hygiene items, T-shirts, socks, caps, sunglasses, flashlights, candy and nuts. They include $7 for shipping and drop off the boxes at collection sites. Boxes are then sent to distribution centers which deliver them all over the world.

Donors can track their gifts online through a bar code.

The Sycamore church collected boxes from Nov. 12 through 19. Local relay center coordinator Jane Peters said the Baptist church has been involved in the project for years. When another drop-off center couldn’t do it one year, she volunteered her church, whose members drive boxes to a distribution center in Rockford. This was the church’s fourth year of serving as a collection site.

Last year, Peters said the church  collected 1,163 boxes; this year’s goal was 1,250. One church alone, Peters said, donated 161 boxes.

Peters said donations come from all over the area, including Rollo, from individuals, families, churches, Boy Scout troops and anyone else who wanted to help.

Kallas said most donors use the event as a family project.

“It’s kind of fun (for families) to put the boxes together,” she said. “They get the joy of giving.”

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