Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge church members fill Christmas Shoeboxes for children around the world

Breckenridge church members fill Christmas Shoeboxes for children around the world
November 10
13:46 2023

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Last Sunday afternoon, Nov. 5, in First Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall was sort of like Christmas morning … there were Christmas boxes filled with toys and games and even some socks and underwear. But, things were happening in reverse. Instead of opening the Christmas gifts, several members of the church were cheerfully picking out the gifts and packing them into the boxes. Instead of boxes being ripped open with glee, they were being closed up and secured with rubber bands.

John Kieke picks out toys for a Christmas Shoebox at First Presbyterian Church of Breckenridge last Sunday. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

In a few weeks, children somewhere in the world will start getting those shoeboxes filled to the brim with goodies, as part of Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.

At least two churches, maybe more, in Breckenridge have shoeboxes that they’ve filled and will send to the organization to be shipped to other countries.

After sending out 50 boxes last year, First Presbyterian ordered 100 Christmas shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse this year.

All year long, church members have been collecting items to go in the boxes. On Sunday, tote boxes filled with the gifts were lined up on tables in the Fellowship Hall. Over and over again, the church members grabbed a shoebox from the big stack against the wall and walked up and down the toy-laden tables, picking out items and packing as much as possible into the shoebox.

From the tote boxes, they picked out toys, including inflatable soccer balls with air pumps, stuffed animals, balls, whistles, small games, miniature cars, jump ropes, dolls and more; school and art supplies, such as crayons, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebook paper, spiral notebooks, erasers, pencil bags, etc.; clothing and hygiene items, including t-shirts, underwear, socks, toothbrushes, washcloths, bath soap, flipflops,  and more; accessories, such as jewelry, hair clips and sunglasses; and several practical items, like flashlights with batteries, tote bags, cloth bags, fishing kits, sewing kits and pieces of fabric.

At the end of the line, they added a “Prayer Pocket,” a little heart-shaped pocket containing the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer in English and Spanish. Just before each box was closed up, the volunteers chose a small picture to add to the box. One choice was a picture of an angel, and the other was a print of a painting, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” by the late Martha Kelley.

Then, the boxes were secured with a rubber band and labeled for either a boy or a girl.

Jerry Hamm, Linda Leveridge and Rick Wood get Christmas Shoeboxes ready for children around the world. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

First Presbyterian Pastor Linda Leveridge said that earlier this year a group of church members traveled to Weatherford to hear a talk by a man who had been in an orphanage and received a shoebox from Operation Christmas Child. He was eventually adopted by a family in Plano, and now he works for Samaritan’s Purse.

“Everybody I’ve ever heard speak has said receiving one of these boxes changed their life,” Leveridge said.

She said a boy in Rwanda said the flashlight was his favorite gift, and an orphan in Russia had shared a bed and shower with five other boys. When he received his Christmas Shoebox, it was the first time he had every had his own washcloth/towel.

“If you can lighten a child’s life with a washcloth — oh!” Leveridge said. “They say each box touches 10 people.”

On Monday, the boxes packed by the First Presbyterian members will be taken to Graham. From there, they will be delivered to a location in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There, each box will be examined to make sure it doesn’t include anything, such as liquids or glass, that might damage the boxes. And, then, they will be sent out around the world. Depending on where the the boxes are destined, they should arrive somewhere between late December and early Spring, according to the Samaritan’s Purse website.

Samaritan’s Purse was started in 1970 by Bob Pierce, who was succeeded by Franklin Graham. In 1993, Graham was asked by a man in England asking if he would fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in Eastern Europe. According to the Operation Christmas Child website, Franklin agreed but since Christmas was months away, he forgot about the promise until he received a call back around Thanksgiving asking about the gifts.

Franklin asked his friend, the late Pastor Ross Rhoads of Calvary Church of Charlotte to see if he could help with the need, the website explains. Within weeks, the church had 11,000 shoeboxes lining their hallways. With additional gifts from Canada, Samaritan’s Purse sent 28,000 shoebox gifts to children in the Balkans that Christmas.

Since 1993, the organization has sent more than 209 million Christmas Shoeboxes to children around the world.

To read more about the project, click here to visit the Operation Christmas Child website.

To see more photos from First Presbyterian Church’s Christmas Shoebox packing event, click here for the Breckenridge Texan Photo Gallery.

Members of Breckenridge’s First Presbyterian Church work on packing up Christmas Shoeboxes as part of the Operation Christmas Child project. Pictured from left are Linda Holloway, Ron Holloway, Sherry Strickland, Marilyn Kieke, Linda Lippe, Les Strickland, Laura Patton, Paul Lippe, Jerry Hamm, John Kieke and Rick Wood. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Kathy Wood fills a Christmas Shoebox for the Operation Christmas Child program. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Les Strickland steers a cart full of filled Christmas Shoeboxes into a storage room. They will be delivered to an area collection site in Graham on Monday. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: With shoeboxes in hand, volunteers pick out toys, school/art supplies, toiletries and other items for Operation Christmas Child. Pictured, from left, are Laura Patton, Paul Lippe, Linda Holloway, Ron Holloway, Linda Lippe and Rick Wood. Click here to see more photos. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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