OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Kansas City metro residents are expected to pack 60,000 shoe boxes this holiday season for the 20th anniversary of a program called Operation Christmas Child.
Since 1993, the organization has helped children around the globe in 130 countries by providing them with more than 100 million shoe boxes filled with hygiene products, toys, and school supplies. Some children walk for miles to get one of the only gifts they may ever receive.
"The kids also really love school supplies because in some countries they can't go to school unless they have a pencil," said Brooke Taylor of Operation Christmas Child.
As a child, a boy named Alex survived a Rwandan genocide. He was put in an orphanage after he witnessed his parents’ brutal murder. That's where he received a shoebox that changed his life. It contained stationary and a washcloth.
"He was so excited when he received a washcloth because it was his own personal towel,” said Taylor. “He used to have to share one with 20 other kids in the orphanage. Just simple gifts like that. They don't have anything of their own, some of these children."
This year, most of the boxes from the metro will go to Togo, Africa, South America and Mexico. Online, donors can even track their boxes to find out where they ended up.
Angie Moreno from Emmanuel Baptist Church has two sons now in college. She and her family have packed two boxes for little boys every year for the past 17 years.
"We use it as an opportunity to take them shopping with us, and let them choose the toys to place in the shoebox. So they can choose things they would enjoy, but at the same time know that it was going to go to someone else,” said Moreno.
It’s a lesson in giving, with the reward of knowing a little recipient will probably be profoundly grateful this Christmas.
“We pray for the box and the child that receives it, and even for their family, because that one shoebox will impact not only the child but the whole family,” said Moreno.
Operation Christmas Child will collect boxes until Monday, November 25 at 10 a.m. There are 33 drop-off locations in the Kansas City area.