LIHUE — It took the efforts of one boy to reflect the heart of Operation Christmas Child.
The 5-year-old arrived at Breath of Life church Monday afternoon with more than 50 shoeboxes he and family and friends filled with gifts for children overseas.
“He saved all year long and half of those 66 boxes, he filled himself,” said volunteer Debra Rodriguez. “It was very sweet.”
The donations helped push the OCC shoebox drive to a new record this year, with 3,163 collected. Donors were arriving right up to the 7 p.m. deadline.
Contributions came from sports teams, scouts, community groups, churches, families and keiki, too.
Many new organizations and individuals joined the program that delivers gifts around the world. Monday was the final day of the shoebox drive, a Christian program through Samaritan’s Purse. National Collection Week started Nov. 13.
Roberta Zarbaugh, OCC volunteer, liked the diversity of donors.
“This year, I think it really made a difference that we prayed over the boxes, and they just started coming in,” Zarbaugh said.
“That’s so exciting to see kids coming in,” she added.
Sissie Aqui of Ohana Christian Fellowship in Kapaa arrived with about 50 boxes packed with small presents for boys and girls ages 2 to 14. Stuffed animals, toy cars, dolls, balls, flashlights, school supplies, hygiene items, hats and clothes were bound for children who live in poverty, and own little if anything. Most have never received a gift.
Aqui said support was wonderful, as everyone rallied around the project. It spread beyond the church to homes. Kids learned about giving back and giving to those who are less fortunate.
“It was exciting,” she said. “Every week we talked about it, every week we got everybody encouraged.”
Since 1993, OCC has collected and delivered more than 146 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories.
Last year, 11.5 million were collected worldwide.
Five years ago, OCC collected about 700 boxes on Kauai. Last year, the collection set a record at 2,957, and shoeboxes went to the Philippines, Peru and Indonesia.
This year’s island goal was to collect and ship 3,035 shoeboxes.
Mike and Christina Ensman were delighted with this year’s record and the generosity displayed. Many people also donated the $9 to cover shipping costs for each shoebox.
“Fantastic,” Mike said. Prayerful pursuit of the prize.”