Two older women are investing in children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.
Shirley MacLachlan and Margaret Lusch are not letting age stop them. At 87 and 94, respectively, they both actively serve with Operation Christmas Child in order to bring good news and great joy to children around the world through gift-filled shoeboxes.Pack a Shoebox Shirley, of Marlborough, Connecticut, started in 2005 when a friend told her about the Samaritan’s Purse project. Intrigued, she rallied the women’s ministry she was a part of to pack 19 boxes in two weeks. That was only the beginning.
Now in her eleventh year, she is hoping to coordinate the packing of 600 to 700 shoeboxes, hopefully surpassing her 2014 total of 633.
Shirley packed boxes at Marlborough Congregational Church until she and the other volunteers outgrew that space.“When you get up to 200 to 300 boxes there isn’t a spot for them at church,” she said, “so we moved to my game room.” This 15-by-30 foot room is now filled with shoeboxes. The pool table is covered with gifts to be put in boxes, while surrounding card tables hold the egg cartons they use to transport the shoeboxes to the drop-off location.
Toys, hygiene supplies, and school supplies fill Shirley’s game room nearly all year. “A lot of churches fill shoeboxes seasonally before Christmas, but we start right after the holidays,” Shirley said. She uses the few weeks following each National Collection Week to clean her game room and get ready for the next year.
Shirley lets the project overtake part of her home for one reason. She said, “I am motivated by the faces of the children as they hug their boxes.” She gets excited “that they realize someone cared enough to send them a gift.”
Members of her church and community support Shirley’s work by supplying gift items. A group of retirees also helps her fill the boxes, praying for the children who will receive them as they pack. This team repeatedly experiences God’s provision. “Every time we think we need something, God sends it to us,” Shirley said.
“Every time we think we need something, God sends it to us.”
A grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of seven, Shirley said, “I hope to do it one more year, but I don’t know after that.” She prays for the strength to continue because she delights to “bring some joy to children.”
Working for the Lord in Pennsylvania
A four-hour drive southwest of Shirley’s residence is Margaret’s lifetime home in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Born in the rural area surrounding the town, today Margaret lives alone in her home of 65 years. She spends more time there than she used to, because she has difficulty walking and can’t get out in the cold, but she is still an integral part of Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church’s Operation Christmas Child efforts.
This year alone she carefully wrapped 100 shoeboxes with Christmas wrapping so others could fill them with gifts for children in need.
It all started five years ago when she noticed she had a lot of wrapping paper on hand. That’s when she realized she could wrap shoeboxes for the church.
“I thought of the children who never had a gift, and I wanted to help,” Margaret said. Bethany Church’s involvement with Operation Christmas Child was an answer to her long held desire to help needy children.Learn More About Operation Christmas Child A widow for 25 years, Margaret knows her late husband Elmer would applaud her shoebox wrapping. She said, “He’d be all for it if he were living.” Her remaining family—one daughter, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and seven great- great-grandchildren—support her efforts as well.
“I’m just an ordinary person doing the Lord’s work,” Margaret said.
At 94 she has no intention of stopping. “He’s helping me,” Margaret said. “I’m going to do it as long as I’m able.”