MORRIS – Volunteers of all ages are needed Saturday to help pack shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, personal items and all kinds of cool things for underprivileged children around the world. The Crazy Shoebox Packing Party is hosted by Operation Christmas Child.
“We need people of all ages,” said Operation Christmas Child area coordinator Betsy Burnett of Lisbon. “It’s a great opportunity to show children all over the globe that someone out there cares for them.”
Children younger than age 7 must be accompanied by an adult.
Burnett said volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Christian Youth Center in Morris. They will receive a short training session before walking the line of containers of donated items, choosing what they will place in their boxes.
Burnett, who also is lovingly called the “Crazy Shoebox Lady,” receives materials and financial donations throughout the year, in addition to spending hours shopping for good deals.
Operation St. Nick, for example, donated toys to this year’s shoebox packing party, and a local store sold her dozens of fidget spinners for a fraction of the sale price. Individuals donate items, as well, she said.
Listing items that go into each box is difficult, Burnett said, but they might include crayons, glue sticks, pencils, combs, brushes, soap, little cars, baby dolls, sewing kits, fishing kits and even deflated and folded soccer balls with pumps.
“And shoes,” she said. “Lots and lots of shoes go in the shoeboxes.”
Burnett filled her first box in 1994 – one year after Operation Christmas Child was founded. She had one child at the time.
With the birth of her second child the next year, she packed two. The following year, she had three children and packed three boxes.
It was when her oldest daughter saw a package of new toys at a garage sale and suggested they buy it and put them in shoeboxes that her family’s tradition escalated and began to involve the community.
The record for Operation Shoe Box in Morris was set in 2016, when about 300 volunteers packed 3,960 boxes.
Operation Christmas Child is a program of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, a nondenominational Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world, according to its website.
Children who receive shoeboxes also are given a booklet about the story of Jesus and are invited back to the churches that handed the shoeboxes to them.
“A shoebox gift is a chance to reach children with the good news of God’s love,” Burnett said. “It’s a tangible expression of God’s love.”
The Crazy Shoebox Packing Party is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Morris Christian Youth Center, 508 W. Illinois Ave. For information, visit the event’s Facebook page, Crazy Shoebox Crew Packing Party, or call 815-325-9926. Monetary donations also are welcome.
Donations also can be shipped online. Burnett said those donating in this manner have the opportunity to see what country their shoeboxes are delivered to.