Embracing the giving spirit of the Christmas season, students involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at Robinson Middle School in Kingsport recently participated in the school's annual shoebox packing event for Operation Christmas Child.
“FCA has been doing this event for 11 years,” Robinson Middle School teacher Lisa Bratton said. “We heard about the project from our local churches and decided that our students could get involved from our Fellowship of Christian Athletes group that meets each Wednesday... This project allows the FCA members and staff members a way to appreciate all that they have this season and to encourage the importance of giving to those less fortunate.”
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian International Relief organization based out of Boone, N.C. According to the humanitarian organization's website, since the 'operation' began in 1993, “more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have experienced God's love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child.”
This year's FCA Operation Christmas Child event at Robinson was held after school from 5 to 7 p.m., Nov. 7. Bratton said that approximately 50 students, parents and staff members attended and collectively packed and wrapped 56 shoeboxes in the two-hour period.
Bratton said that each of the students who helped with Operation Christmas Child brought an empty shoebox along with at least one item - purchased prior to the event - to donate. A detailed list of appropriate shoebox items was provided by Samaritan's Purse and included bar soap, washcloths, small toys (non-war related), school supplies, hard candy, coloring books and crayons, socks, T-shirts, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Robinson staff members then sorted through the donated items and students “went shopping” for their box.
“Before we begin packing, each student writes a personal note to the child receiving the box and places it in their box. We encourage them to tell them about themselves and include their picture and address,” Bratton said enthusiastically. “Many times we receive letters from the recipients!”
Then, she continued, “each child wraps their shoebox (lid separate), packs their box and then indicates the age and gender of the child that will receive their box... After packing the boxes, we took them to Pleasant View Baptist Church that acts as a collection center for the area... From there, the boxes are sent to the Boone, N.C. main distribution center.”
To cover shipping costs ($7 per shoebox), students paid $5 for a ticket to the Operation Christmas Child event and the staff at Robinson picked up the remaining cost through their monetary donations to the venture.
Bratton said that, although Samaritan's Purse supplies a method of tracking for the gift boxes after they are sent overseas, the destination of this year's FCA packages is still unknown - one year they were sent to Madagascar.
No matter what country the gifts go to, however, the point is that they are placed in the hands of a deserving child on Christmas.
“The main purpose of the project is to share the gospel to those who are receiving [the shoeboxes],” Bratton said. “For many of the children receiving the boxes, this is the only present they receive.”