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Operation Christmas Child a countywide event

Staff writer

Alli Hett, 13, enjoys giving gifts to impoverished children in third-world countries around the world.

“People are starving,” Hett said. “When you have so much that you have leftovers, you can send a bunch of stuff over there for them to have.”

Hett was part of the congregation at Aulne United Methodist Church on Sunday that provided shoeboxes full of goodies for the non-profit Operation Christmas Child. Aulne packed 261 shoeboxes that were delivered to a relay center in Hillsboro.

Last year, 11 churches participated and brought more than a thousand shoeboxes full of clothes, school supplies and hygiene products and toys to the relay center at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church in Hillsboro. So far this year, upwards of 15 churches are participating, said relay center coordinator Susan Paine.

The gift drive is not limited to churches, and several individuals and businesses also participate, Paine said.

The boxes on Monday will be shipped from Hillsboro via semi to Wichita, and from Wichita, they will travel to a processing plant in Denver, where the boxes will be checked for liquids, chocolate, knives, and weapons. Those items will be removed as will any army toys, said Paine.

“Army toys are removed because the boxes are sent to places where war is a daily issue for so many children,” Paine said.

In fact, all the boxes shipped from Denver will go to various locations in war-torn Mexico, Paine said. Mexico has one of the highest poverty rates in the Western Hemisphere.

Paine has been volunteering for Operation Christmas Child for 11 years, including the last seven in Hillsboro.

“I just really have a heart for the poor and those that live in developing countries and don’t have what we have,” Paine said. “I think we have so much that we forget there are people who literally have nothing.”

Kevin Fruechting and his wife, Lori, have coordinated Aulne’s Operation Christmas Child for five years. In the beginning, the congregation raised about 30 boxes. Compare that with the 261 raised this year.

“What an opportunity to be able to on a larger scale impact a child,” Kevin Fruechling said. “We always pack socks, shirts, shorts, bars of soap, wash cloths, toothbrushes, some of the basic things we take for granted every day. These things are a part of our daily life. However, they are a luxury for many of the kids who receive the gifts. They get fun things that light their lives up.”

For the last two years, the Fruechlings have visited the processing center in Denver where 20,000 to 40,000 boxes a day are inspected. Six people work at a station to make sure the boxes are full, and prohibited items are removed.

For some children, the boxes of gifts will be the first gift they ever receive. Fruechling said simple items like school supplies make a huge difference in the lives of poor children.

“There are certain schools, literally, where children share a pencil,” he said.

Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization helping impoverished people around the world since 1970.

Besides clothes, toys, and school supplies, each child also receives a small booklet in the shoebox called “The Greatest Gift,” which serves as an introduction to Christianity. If any child who receives a box of gifts wants to learn more, they are provided with further Christian literature.

“That is the whole goal, obviously, of Operation Christmas Child: to get children to accept Christ,” Fruechling said. “What a great way to provide them with both earthly joy and eternal joy. Personally for my wife and I, the joy for us is to be mission-minded missionaries without really having to leave our own area here.”

For more information on how to pack a shoebox for this year’s delivery, visit SamaritansPurse.org or call Susan Paine at 620-947-3497.

Last modified Nov. 20, 2014

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