LIHUE — Iris Erickson and daughter Ashlynn of Kalaheo were the first ones through the doors at Breath of Life church on Monday as Operation Christmas Child entered the final week of its shoebox drive.
The Ericksons arrived with four shoeboxes filled with gifts for children overseas.
“We feel like giving back is important,” Iris Erickson said. “It’s a really good cause.”
About 10 volunteers were at Monday’s opening of the collection center at Breath of Life that was marked by prayers and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Mike and Christina Ensman are once again OCC area coordinators heading up this year’s efforts to ship more than 3,000 shoeboxes through Samaritan’s Purse bound for children in more than 150 countries.
Churches, community groups, families and individuals have rallied behind the project, putting it on pace to top last year’s collection of just over 2,700 boxes. Inside are gifts for boys and girls ages 2 to 14. Balls, stuffed animals, toy cars, dolls, hard candy, school supplies and hygiene items are some of the presents people on Kauai buy and donate.
“It looks like we’ll beat that goal,” Christina said. “The support here is really amazing.”
Nearly 500 shoeboxes were readied for shipment at a packing party early this month.
And, it doesn’t really take long to do the shoebox shopping, Erickson added.
“While you’re shopping, you always see little things on clearance,” she said. “That’s what I do, and then pack it.”
The Ensmans have led the drive for the past six years and even traveled to Colombia to distribute the shoeboxes and watch them being opened.
They visited orphanages and schools and found kids who had “absolutely nothing,” and had faced many traumas and abuses and lived in poverty.
But they were very obedient and gracious when receiving their OCC shoeboxes and didn’t open them until given the OK.
“They would just scream with joy,” Christina said. “You could just see it in their eyes.”
For many of the children, the shoeboxes are the only Christmas present they ever received. One girl received soap but didn’t know what it was. Still, she was thrilled.
“It’s so important that children who have never received a Christmas gift know that they’re loved and not forgotten,” Christina said.
It’s also a way of sharing the love of Christ, she said.
“Really, it’s the gospel in a shoebox,” she said. “They go to places we can’t reach.”
There is still time to get involved. OCC relay centers are Kapaa United Church of Christ and North Shore Calvary Chapel.
Shoeboxes can be dropped off at Breath of Life 2:30 to 6 p.m. through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to four Sunday. Next Monday, Nov. 21, is the final day to donate a shoebox filled with gifts.
People are asked to donate $7 for each box to cover shipping costs.
Information, Christina Ensman, 651-4371.