Filled with joy


POSTED: Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's not December yet, but there is a gift-giving deadline looming tomorrow that had hundreds of people filling and wrapping Christmas boxes for the past week.
Operation Christmas Child on Oahu has already logged in more than 6,000 shoe boxes full of surprises for children in strife-torn places around the globe. Tomorrow is the deadline for delivery on Oahu to get the gifts to their destinations by the holiday.

The shoebox-stuffing effort is a project associated with Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization that has delivered more than 46 million shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries since 1993.

Dozens of local schools, churches, clubs and families participate in the project, and more take part each year. The entire student body of Holy Trinity School in Aina Haina brought their gifts wrapped and decorated to school Thursday. That's 70 more.

At Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay on Pookela Street, it was 1,182 and counting Thursday. “;We expect to hit our goal of 2,500 by Sunday,”; said coordinator Flor Lyn Uechi.

Area coordinator Rene Morgan's dream is to reach 16,000 boxes, double what was given last year on Oahu.

        Operation Christmas Child
        » Central Union Church, 1660 S. Beretania St., noon to 6 p.m. today; 3 to 6 p.m. tomorrow.
        » Calvary Chapel of Honolulu, 98-1016 Komo Mai Drive, Aiea, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and tomorrow.
        » Kailua United Methodist Church, 1110 Kailua Road, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
        » Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, 45-815 Pookela St., noon to 4 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow.
        » Hope Chapel Kapolei, 1762 Franklin Ave., Barbers Point, 2 to 4 p.m. today, 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow.
        » Hope Chapel West Oahu, Waikele Shopping Center, 1 to 4 p.m. today.

Rather than one big zinger of a present, the shoebox gift is meant to be a collection of small treasures, basic essentials—school supplies and hygiene items—combined with toys. Each box is packed specifically for a girl or a boy.

Pencils and a good sharpener are the first things Morgan mentions when asked for a packing list.

“;So many kids don't have even basic school supplies,”; she said. “;We don't realize how easy it is to change the life of a child.”;

Writing pads, crayons and markers, coloring books and picture books are also on that list.

“;A stuffed animal is the No. 1 treasured gift, boys and girls, age 2 to 14,”; Morgan said. “;It's the most precious thing.”;

Other toys could be “;things that light up or make noise, harmonicas, whistles, jump ropes and Frisbees, Legos and Hot wheels for boys,”; she said. “;Slinkies are a fascination. One family deflates a soccer ball and includes a pump.”;

Other ideas presented are a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, washcloth, bar of soap, socks and underwear, hair clips and ponytail holders.

Some things won't go: no liquids, no food, no glass or aerosol, no used goods, nothing sharp and nothing military, such as action figures. Those things will be removed when each shoebox is opened and inspected, Morgan said.

And although the sponsoring Samaritan's Purse is a Christian organization, no gospel booklets or religious tracts are packed in recognition of the diversity of the recipients.

The packages are really standard, ordinary shoeboxes. “;Some people are so generous they want to fill a boot box, but we want more boxes, not bigger,”; Morgan said.

Every box full can be different; there is no required list.

“;It expands people's awareness of the impact of the simplest things in life,”; said Morgan, whose house contains an array of packable things. “;People have fun figuring out how many things can fit in one box. I buy things on sale all year. My family has done over 200 boxes.”;

The givers may write personal notes or enclose their photographs, and Samaritan's Purse suggests but doesn't require a $7 donation per box for shipping.

Boxes may be wrapped and decorated, with the lid done separately so it can be opened. The boxes will be sorted at a new processing center on Oahu. In the past, the container-load of island gifts went to California for inspection.

“;People feel blessed to give to someone who has so little,”; Uechi said. “;We want to be able to touch the lives of children.”; She heads a team of volunteers staffing the collection site at Hope Chapel Kaneohe, where the presents produced by several other organizations will be dropped off.

Individuals and families may still join Operation Christmas Child if they can make the delivery deadline. If there's no time to fill a shoebox, monetary donations to pay shipping costs are being accepted. For information and an “;Easy Give”; form, visit the Web site samaritanspurse.org.