Operation Christmas Child receives boost on final day of shoebox collection

LIHUE — Joy Suchada was greeted with smiles and hugs when she arrived Monday with five shoeboxes filled with gifts for Operation Christmas Child.

She was pleased to be part of the program that sends presents to children overseas. And just as important was what she hoped to impress upon her young daughter with their donations.

“There are a lot of kids in the world who don’t have much,” said Suchada, owner of Savage Shrimp. “When we do things together, I can teach her and show her. Doing is better than saying, right?”

Absolutely.

Monday was the final collection of shoeboxes at Breath of Life church. It was a blur of busy people stacking, wrapping and carrying colorful boxes, especially when members of Holy Cross Catholic Church showed up with 400 shoeboxes. While some helped visitors, others took pictures and made sure everyone enjoyed deserts and conversation.

It was an awful lot like Christmas, just a little bit early.

The final tally was still being added up, but it looked like this year’s total would top last year’s 2,710 boxes.

“Amazing,” said Christina Ensman, OCC area coordinator with husband Mike for the sixth year.

Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles all turned up to contribute decorated shoeboxes with gifts for boys and girls ages 2 to 14. Inside were toys, dolls, clothes, school supplies, hard candy and hygiene items.

The boxes will be shipped through Samaritan’s Purse bound for children in more than 150 countries.

Mike Ensman said it was great to see the generosity and giving spirit on display. The shoeboxes are a chance to brighten the days for less fortunate keiki in other countries, as well as share their Christian faith.

“We’re are so happy,” he said.

The Ensmans were particularly delighted this year with the participation of so many new people and the support of local businesses.

“The best part is just seeing these individual people come in,” he said. “The kids are just shining with joy. That’s what it’s all about. It makes the giver as happy as the receiver.”

It’s not known where the boxes leaving Kauai will be shipped, but for those who would like, they can track their shoeboxes online and learn where it ends up.

Cecil and June Cooper with Lihue United Church drove up with 100 boxes in their SUV. They said church members contributed gifts throughout the year. Then, on Saturday, a festive potluck with cheery music was held as they filled and prepared the boxes.

The church youth collected bottles and cans to earn recycling money and help pay for the shipping, $7 a box.

OCC is a great program that meets a growing need in countries where children have so little, the Coopers said.

“We have watched and know how many children there are that don’t get anything for Christmas,” June said.

June Cooper lived in Africa for a time and said the kids knew nothing about receiving presents for Christmas.

“They didn’t know anything about the Lord, either,” she said.

Tanya Jardin and daughters Amanda, 10, and Amber, 8, delivered six shoeboxes. Most contained gifts for girls.

“I did one for a boy,” a smiling Amber said.

Her mom said they contribute to OCC each year.

“We have so much, so we like to give to other people,” Tanya Jarin said.

Amber nodded in agreement.

“My bed is filled with toys,” she said.

She’s already looking forward to Dec. 25.

“Thirty-five more days until Christmas,” Amber said with a big grin.

The Christmas spirit is already here.

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