SYCAMORE – Amanda Umana of Shabbona has 52 shoeboxes sitting on a table in her house.
Umana isn’t a shopaholic who loves shoes, she is the drop-off coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, at First Baptist Church in Sycamore.
Through Operation Christmas Child, shoeboxes full of items like school supplies and toys, are delivered to children in more than 100 countries around the world.
First Baptist Church, 530 W. State St. in Sycamore, has been the collection center for the DeKalb County area for the past 10 years. The donated boxes are collected and taken to a regional center that routes them to Minneapolis for distribution to children around the world.
To participate in Operation Christmas Child, an average-sized plastic or cardboard shoebox is filled with items for a girl or boy age 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14. Shipping costs $9 a box and must be paid at the time of drop-off.
Someone will be available at the church to accept shoebox donations during the following hours: 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 18, 19 and 21, 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 20 and 23, noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 22, 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 24, and 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 25.
Umana met with MidWeek Reporter Katrina Milton to discuss Operation Christmas Child and how sending a shoebox filled with items can change a child’s Christmas – and their life.
Katrina Milton: Tell me about Operation Christmas Child.
Amanda Umana: The shoebox collection is designed to take the word of Christ all over the world, directed toward the youth. There are three different age ranges: 2 to 4, 5 to 9 and 10 to 14. Then you select if you want the shoebox to be sent to a boy or girl. Boxes are available at the church or you can use an old shoebox. Each box costs $9 for shipping. If you pay online, you can track the box and follow where it goes.
Milton: What items are the shoeboxes filled with?
Umana: You fill the shoebox with stuff you’d like to give to a child: school supplies, deflated balls, a pump for the ball, flip flops, socks, small toys, drawstring backpacks, combs and brushes, flashlights, tool kits, hair accessories. Sending new, unopened and unused items are encouraged. It’s only asked that you don’t send candy, toothpaste, liquids or aerosols because of customs.
Milton: Can you send letters, photos and personal items?
Umana: You can also send letters and photos. Some people make their boxes very personal. It depends on what’s in your heart. … I have never heard back from a child, but one of our church members received a shoebox as a child. They stayed in touch through the years and were able to meet.
Milton: What happens if a box is too empty?
Umana: At the processing center, the boxes are checked for safety and some items are added. The boxes are evened out. Some people donate items throughout the year, so items can be added to boxes that are emptier. That’s why you don’t have to worry about how many items you have or whether or not you can afford the $9 postage. What’s important is that you fill a box and do what’s in your heart and in your means.
Milton: How would you describe the difference the boxes make in the world?
Umana: Although it’s done at Christmas, it’s so much more than a Christmas present. The boxes also include the story of Jesus and how he is the gift of our salvation. Some countries don’t celebrate Christmas. I’ve heard stories of children receiving the shoeboxes, and they’re so excited. For many, it’s the first gift they’ve ever received.
Milton: Where are the shoeboxes sent?
Umana: The shoeboxes are sent all over the world to different countries. The destination of the boxes is not announced until they arrive to help keep everything anonymous.
Milton: Who can fill the shoeboxes?
Umana: Everyone and anybody can participate. A lady in her 90s filled about 700 boxes and put items in the boxes all year round. It got to be too much for her to do, but many people do a lot of boxes. Some families work together to fill one or two boxes, others do a hundred. Right now, my husband Andres and I have 52 boxes we’re getting ready to send. Last year, people in the DeKalb County area sent about 2,100 boxes.
Milton: Why do you think sending shoeboxes is important?
Umana: Sending a shoebox full of items is such a generous thing to do. It’s really, really easy to do and it’s fun to choose and pack the items. It’s something anyone of any age can do: siblings, families or churches. You can visit the website for item ideas, testimonies and to track your box if you pay online. For people interested, I’d say if it’s in your heart to send a box, just do it. It can really make a difference.