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Casper Children Provide Christmas for Children Throughout the World

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12/01/2012 - By Gayle Irwin

The week prior to Thanksgiving colorful shoeboxes lined the walls of many Casper churches. Children and families from those churches and throughout the community filled those boxes with items to be delivered to children around the world by Samaritan's Purse for its Operation Christmas Child (OCC) program.

The children at Highland Park Community Church's (HPCC) Children's Ministry Department understood the importance of these small shoebox gifts. Nearly 125 youngsters participated in a packing party on a Wednesday evening, choosing items to fill the multitude of shoeboxes stacked along the Atrium walls.

"There are kids around the world who don't have much of anything," 9-year-old Sage Preston chimed in. "I'm helping those kids [by packing a shoebox]."

"We do this because some children don't have anything," 5-year-old Samuel Schaffer said.

His older sister, Ashton, served as one of the teens helping the younger children pack the shoeboxes as well as the evening's photographer. She has been helping with OCC packing parties at the church for about five years.

"At first, when I was younger, I wondered why we packed shoeboxes," Ashton said. "Then, after seeing [OCC's] video, as I got older, I realized that a shoebox filled with these things helps kids around the world see Jesus."

Her hope for when a child opens the shoebox?

"That they see somebody in another country who doesn't even know them, loves them, just like God loves them."

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That's one reason HPCC participates in OCC, according to Diane Shaffer, coordinator for the packing party.

"We want to help each child who gets a shoebox learn about Jesus Christ. We also do this to give to people who don't have and to teach our kids to serve [others]," she said.

A second HPCC packing party was held on a Friday night at which kids from Celebrate Recovery packed shoeboxes. A total of 1,005 shoeboxes were given through HPCC.

Other church youth also participated in packing parties, according to Wyoming OCC Coordinator Wanda Klietz, including Faith Assembly and Prince of Peace Lutheran. Additionally, two girls from Prince of Peace sought donations from WalMart shoppers on a blustery Saturday.

"The kids want to do this – they realize they can make a difference and be missionaries through a shoebox," Klietz said. "Packing shoeboxes helps them think beyond themselves, to think about missions and helping others."

The Wyoming shoeboxes will reach children in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and other countries, Klietz said.

Teens at Highland Park helped the younger children "shop" for things to place in their boxes, choosing from items placed on long, white tables, such as stuffed animals, games, crayons, toothbrushes and toothpaste, socks and mittens.

Fourth-grader Cole Douglass chose stuffed animals, candy, pens and paper, and a recorder, a flute-like instrument. A lot can be placed inside one shoebox and the items impact those who receive them, he explained.

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"God asks us to share and to help," Cole said. "I hope [whoever receives the box] will feel good and know that somebody cares about them… and know that God is real."

Like Cole, 11-year-old twin sisters Moriah and McKenzie Jones participated in the church's packing party for the second year in a row. A reason they participate is because "it makes kids feel happy because they are getting something," Moriah said.

Around 15 other Casper churches took part in OCC this year, according to Klietz. Nearly 7,100 shoeboxes were received from Casper and other Wyoming communities, an increase of nearly 2,000 over last year's total.

Watching Casper and other communities come together on behalf of children around the world, especially youngsters from the various churches, impacts all involved.

"The giving spirit is incredible!" Diane Shaffer said.

"We're showing our kids they can do something to change the world," Klietz added.

Possible Poem if there's enough room (I thought it might be fun to put this above the story, but if not enough room or too "cheeky", then no need to use it! It's 50 words– Gayle)

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'Twas the week before Thanksgiving and boxes were stacked high;

Children gathered near tables, and we heard excited sighs!

Enthusiasm grew as kids fidgeted and smiled

Seeing the presents they'd give another child.

Toys and candy, crayons, gloves, and socks

Toothbrushes, paper, pencils, pens –

Ready to pack in a shoebox….

The photos:

Prince of Peace Kids: Aletla Ziehl (age 12) and Skyiegh Armstrong (age 11), who attend Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, spent hours at WalMart on a cold Saturday seeking item donations for OCC shoeboxes.

HPCC Kids and Wanda:

Sage Preston and Samuel Shaffer take time with Operation Christmas Child's Wyoming Coordinator Wanda Klietz during HPCC Children's Ministry Department packing party.

Jones Twins:

Twins Moriah and McKenzie Jones select items from a table at Highland Park Community Church to pack into their OCC shoeboxes.


Five-year-old Samuel Shaffer chooses items from one of the tables during a OCC shoepacking party at Highland Park Church.

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