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News / Churches & Religion

670 Shoeboxes: Family floods donation program with gifts

Operation Christmas Child sends care packages to children living in poverty overseas

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published: November 20, 2016, 8:28pm
4 Photos
Operation Christmas Child volunteer Bobbi Mauna, right, manages donations Sunday at Felida Bible Church. The program sends shoeboxes full of toys, toiletries and other items to children living in poverty overseas.
Operation Christmas Child volunteer Bobbi Mauna, right, manages donations Sunday at Felida Bible Church. The program sends shoeboxes full of toys, toiletries and other items to children living in poverty overseas. (Natalie Behring for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

FELIDA — Volunteers at Felida Bible Church were packing up donated Christmas gifts for children overseas Sunday afternoon when they got an exciting announcement: They were about to get a whole lot busier.

A family had arrived to drop off more than 600 gift packages.

“Six-hundred? No way. Get out. That is so cool,” an enthusiastic Dani Wisner said.

Wisner oversees the donation effort at the church for Operation Christmas Child, a program that sends shoebox-size care packages to underprivileged children across the globe. The boxes contain items such as toys, school supplies, toiletries and Christian literature.

Sure enough, a couple of vehicles had backed up to the church’s entrance stuffed with red-and-green shoeboxes waiting to be unloaded. Volunteers rolled out platform dollies and, after several minutes of working in the rain, had transported the gifts inside.

They secured each box with a rubber band and counted the boxes a couple of times. There actually were 670 in just that one family’s donation. They came from the Taggart family of Portland — mom Bree, dad Sean, and daughters Baylee, 4, and Micah, 1.

Bree Taggart has been involved with the project for the past decade, and volunteered at an Operation Christmas Child receiving warehouse when she lived in California. She said she began purchasing items for the boxes about as soon as the holiday season ended last year.

“I shop year-round for it,” she said. This year, “I found a big sale at Safeway and cleared them out.”

After Safeway found out what she was shopping for, the company donated thousands of dollars worth of items for the shoeboxes, she said.

She stored the items in her basement and garage. To get help filling the shoeboxes, she organized four packing parties at the homes of neighbors and friends.

She said her involvement in the program has taken on a new meaning since she became a mom: She wants her daughters to do good, too. Baylee helps her family with the project, her mother said, by helping raise money and buying items for the boxes.

“She really understands what’s going on,” Bree Taggart said.

Millions served

Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian ministry group. Since the organization began distributing gifts in 1993, millions of Christmas shoeboxes have been delivered to children in more than 100 nations, organizers have said. People in the U.S., Austria, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Spain, Japan and the United Kingdom all donate gift boxes to the cause.

From Felida, the boxes will be shipped to a Samaritan’s Purse warehouse. Each box is inspected, and volunteers remove perishable or breakable items before the boxes are sent overseas. Items that wouldn’t be accepted in other countries are saved and donated to charitable groups in the U.S.

At Felida Bible Church, 3027 N.W. 119th St., donation collection began Nov. 14 and ends 6 p.m. Monday. Before Sunday, the church had received more than 7,900 gift boxes. By 3 p.m. Sunday, they had at least 1,000 more.

Tears gathering in her eyes, Wisner described how excited children living in poverty are to receive the smallest of items, even something as simple as a pencil.

“They may have never had a gift in their entire life,” Wisner said.

Felida Bible Church volunteer Jenni White said receiving such a large donation on Sunday was “energizing.”

“It’s for children,” White said. “Everybody’s heart gets touched when they provide something for a child.”

Before the Taggart family left, they were invited to gather around their shoeboxes and pray alongside volunteers. The group asked that the boxes be protected during shipment and that each child who receives a gift “be blessed with the love that went into packing it,” White said during the prayer.

Columbian Assistant Metro Editor