Shoebox ministry fits global need

Tony Johnson, left helps his son, Luke, 6, count pencils to put in shoeboxes that will be sent to needy children around the world. The congregation of New Horizons Foursquare Church, 641 Horizon Drive, held the packing party Saturday for Operation Christmas Child.

Kerri Schulze has the Christmas spirit in her heart and on her mind all year long.

She shops clearance sales and dollar stores, grabbing good deals on pencils, markers, bars of soap and small toys. Anything small enough to fit inside a shoebox is on Schulze’s Christmas shopping radar, be it January, July or October.

She is the director of the preschool at New Horizons Foursquare Church and the coordinator of its annual Operation Christmas Child packing party, where nearly 200 shoeboxes are stuffed with goodies and a gospel message for children around the world.

It amounts to about a $3,000 donation from the church each year.

“Many of these children have never received a present of any kind before,” Schulze said. “It’s just such a joy to be able to give them that.”

For the past eight years, the church members collected and stuffed shoeboxes before their Thanksgiving festivities.

“We do it because the Bible asked us to,” Schulze said. “It’s what Christianity is all about.”

In the next two weeks, the church’s donation will be added to the nearly 10,000 shoeboxes stuffed with school supplies, flip-flops, soap and toys that will be collected from all over the Western Slope at Clifton Christian Church.

The colorful holiday boxes will be stacked neatly into a tractor-trailer, where they will start the long journey across country borders, eventually finding their way into the hands of children in Central and South America in time for Christmas.

“There’s not many things where you can put a few pencils and a toothbrush into a box and absolutely know that you are touching the life of a child,” said Sandy Schalbrack, Western Slope area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is one of the world’s largest Christmas projects, collecting and distributing more than 8 million shoeboxes to more than 100 countries across the globe.

The effort is part of a national program within Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization headed today by Franklin Graham, son of famous preacher the Rev. Billy Graham.

Many of the children who receive boxes are victims of famine, war, natural disaster and poverty. Most of what is collected on the Western Slope is distributed to children in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

“This box may make the difference of whether or not a child will be able to go to school,” Schalbrack said.

For the past 10 years, Schalbrack has been working with Operation Christmas Child. She helped start the first relay center in Rifle, then served as collection center coordinator in Clifton.

Now, Schalbrack oversees the entire Western Slope, which includes the areas of Steamboat Springs, Vail, Montrose and Moab, Utah.

“We’ll collect boxes here in Clifton from all of those areas. We’re expecting 10,000 and hoping for more,” she said.

National collection week begins today as the organization makes its final push to collect boxes before the Nov. 22 deadline.

A number of collection sites will be scattered across the Grand Valley, including one in the Fruita area at Monument View Bible Church, 1173 17 1/2 Road.

The main collection site is at Clifton Christian Church, 615 Interstate 70 Business Loop. Hours of collection will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and from 1 p.m to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Suggestions for items to include in the boxes are school supplies, small games and toys, toothbrushes, soaps and other toiletry items, plus a letter of encouragement.

For information, call 433-8465.


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