The weekend before last my family and I went up to Bloomington, MN to help work in the Operation Christmas Child distribution center there. Operation Christmas Child, if you were not already aware, is a project of Samaritan’s Purse which is headed by Franklin Graham and based in Boone, NC. My wife Cheryl has done this before with some of her friends, but this is the first year we were able to do it as a family since my youngest daughter, Lily, just turned 13 which is the minimum age to serve there.
Lily was among three who had birthdays the day we were volunteering. Anyway, it was an excellent experience and one I’d commend to you and your family if your kids are old enough. We’ve been involved as a family before this by putting together shoe boxes, but it was neat to be able to see the next stage of the shoe box gifts’ journey.
The distribution center in Bloomington is one of seven that Operation Christmas Child operates in the United States. The shoe boxes we worked on were headed to several countries in Africa – Uganda is the only specific country I remember. For many of these kids it is the first Christmas gift they have ever received and it is a symbol of the free gift that we all have in Jesus Christ. The distribution center we worked at planned to process approximately 700,000 shoe boxes. They process 50,000 a day. The average shift (we worked four hours) processes 10,000 shoe box gifts.
At the processing center we have to take donations for shipping out of the box, make sure it doesn’t have any inappropriate material in the boxes – you’d be surprised by what some people put in them like fireworks for instance. (Here’s how you are supposed to pack a shoe box.) We then had add filler items with supplementary gift supplies provided (if necessary) tag what gender and age of the child and put it in the appropriate box that will be shipped. It’s a pretty smooth operation which is largely dependent on volunteer labor.
We also was able to hear from the shift manager while we were there which I captured on video below (please forgive the video quality, it was from my cell phone). She talked about the impact that giving a pencil and toothbrush can make on a child. Pretty moving and helped you realize what an impact such a little thing (from our perspective) makes.
While it is too late to sign up to work in a distribution center there are ways you can volunteer year round. You can also build a shoe box online (it’s too late to pack one yourself) and you can always adopt a shoe box – they’re always looking for financial support to help ship these.
Here’s a slideshow of our time working: