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Operation Christmas Child

Community Comes Together to Bring Christmas Hope to the World's Children

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11/01/2011 - By Gayle Irwin

Wanda Klietz became Northeast Wyoming Area Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) more than four years ago; she envisioned sending 5,000 shoeboxes to the organization for distribution around the world. Last year, nearly 4,500 boxes were sent from Wyoming. Wanda has set a goal for this year's collection of 5,250 boxes, and she believes that goal can be attained.

"I've been trying to get 5,000 shoeboxes since I started – this is the year!"

Helping her achieve that goal are more that 35 churches and hundreds of families and individuals, including 12-year-old Abbi Faxon. Abbi and 10 other people gathered at Cornerstone E-Free Church last month for a community shoebox wrapping party, helping kick off this year's OCC ministry in Casper. Abbi not only attended last year's wrapping party, but this summer also celebrated her birthday by giving gifts to OCC children. Instead of receiving gifts for her birthday, she asked her party guests to bring items to pack into two shoeboxes left over from last year's OCC drive. Her friends provided items such as stickers, toy cars, bars of soap, a stuffed cat, and "hair things," she said.

"I like giving to others, making other kids happy," Abbi said. "I'm a Christian – it's really important to me to make others happy. Toys aren't as important to me now. I wanted to help other kids who needed the gifts more."

A 7th grader at Paradise Valley Christian School, Abbi and her family packed four shoeboxes last year, two for girls and two for boys. During her birthday party, she and her friends packed one box for a boy and one for a girl.

"I want the kids to know that other people and Jesus care about them," Abbi said.

Others at last month's wrapping party agreed with the young student.

"There are so many poor children in the world…A young person can be so (positively) affected by the gifts...this is a chance to have an affect," said Pearl Hegge, relay center coordinator at E-Free.

Gaye McMurray, who attends Highland Park Community Church, helped out at the wrapping party as part of her weekly women's community group. She has been involved with OCC for four years.

"This is a way to show the children of the world the love of Jesus, to show them America cares," she said.

In the past year, three new relay centers were added to the Wyoming OCC outreach: E-Free Church in Casper, a site in Lander, and a site in Thermopolis. With these additions and the work of people in Riverton, Sheridan, Buffalo, Douglas and Casper, Wanda sees her goal of more than 5,000 shoeboxes becoming a reality this year.

"The more relay centers, the more shoeboxes," she said.

In her five years in Casper, Wanda has seen shoebox numbers increase significantly.

"Two years ago we saw a 33% increase, and last year another eight percent," she said. "I think sixteen percent this year is very doable."

She's also seen a strong increase in awareness and participation among Wyoming's young people.

"I'm seeing that increase more and more. It's a way for kids to stop thinking of themselves for a moment," she said.

For example, the Children's Ministry at Highland Park Community Church hosted a packing party last year and packed 500 shoeboxes; Wanda believes they intend do that again.

Collection Week is November 14 – 21, 2011. The drop-off sites in Casper are Highland Park Community Church and Cornerstone E-Free.

Summing up the meaning of helping OCC, Kandy Murphy of E-Free Church said, "It's amazing what one shoebox can do."


What is Operation Christmas Child and How Can I Get Involved?

Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 under the direction of Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. Umbrelled under Franklin's Samaritan's Purse organization, OCC reaches out to children around the world and those on Native American reservations in America, providing simple yet important items including tooth brushes, combs, washcloths, socks, and gloves. People also pack small toys and books. These gifts not only bring smiles, but also help provide warm clothing, education, and the Gospel of Christ. With each shoebox Samaritan's Purse gives a booklet called The Greatest Journey, a discipleship tool for children to learn about Jesus. This outreach often also touches the lives of the children's family, including their parents.

Wanda encourages people who want to participate to visit general stores in Casper and pick up small items such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes and combs, hair ties, mittens, socks, yo-yos, rubber balls, crayons, and paper. No chocolate or money should be included, however, a $7 donation toward the cost of mailing the shoebox is appreciated. People can decide whether to help a boy or girl and an age range.

Use your own shoebox or pick up a box or two at your local place of worship or at one of the Casper collection sites. Collection Week is November 14 – 21st. You may drop off your packed shoebox at either HPCC or E-Free churches. See the schedule below.

For more information about OCC, call Wanda at 277-5467 or visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC

Casper OCC Drop-Off Locations, Dates and Hours for Shoebox Drop-Off:

Cornerstone E-Free Church, 4100 Casper Mountain Road:

Mon, Nov. 14th: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tues: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Wed: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thurs: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Fri: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sat: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Sun: 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Mon., Nov. 21st: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Highland Park Community Church, 5725 Highland Drive:

Mon., Nov. 14th: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tues: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Wed: 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thurs: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Fri: 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sat: 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Sun: 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Mon, Nov. 21st 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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