Students Use School Years for More Than Studies

August 31, 2017 • United States
Student volunteer Katherine Helm (center) talks with fellow students about Operation Christmas Child.

Students nationwide invest their time in Operation Christmas Child, helping to reach children around the world with the Gospel.

GET INVOLVED

A growing number of high school and college students across the country are devoting their time to help share the Gospel with children in need through Operation Christmas Child.

Many are packing a shoebox full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for a boy or girl between the ages of 2 and 14. But others are going even further to rally their friends, schools, and communities to participate in this global Christmas project of Samaritan’s Purse.

For years, Karah Betten has invited friends to pack shoeboxes for her birthday.

For years, Karah Betten has invited friends to pack shoeboxes for her birthday.

Karah Betten, a 20-year-old junior at Northern Arizona University, “fell in love” with packing shoebox gifts as an 8-year-old. Her family packed a few together each year after that until Karah decided she wanted her 16th birthday party to influence others around the world.

She invited friends to bring items for shoeboxes instead of gifts for her and together they packed 77 shoeboxes for boys and girls in need. Karah continues to hold packing parties in honor of her birthday. By National Collection Week this year, she anticipates her cumulative total of packed shoeboxes will be 425.

Now, Karah volunteers with Operation Christmas Child year-round on her local community relations and student relations teams, encouraging people in her school and town to pack shoeboxes.

“I think you can make a difference and lead at any age,” Karah said.

One Shoebox Changes a Child’s Life

Will Groves, a third-generation shoebox packer, said, “One box will make a huge difference.”

Will Groves, a third-generation shoebox packer, said, “One box will make a huge difference.”

Will Groves, 18, is a freshman at Louisiana State University and a third-generation shoebox packer. His grandparents packed boxes the first year Samaritan’s Purse sent boxes to children in Bosnia in 1993. His parents instilled the tradition in him as he grew up, but at around 14 years old he came to better understand the importance of the project.

“I realized that the box was more than just a cardboard box filled with toys,” Will said. “It was a link to the Gospel.”

Will serves year-round as a media relations team member—promoting Operation Christmas Child to local news organizations—because he is interested in broadcast journalism.

“It’s so special that one box can change a child’s life, and to me that’s the most important thing,” Will said. “When we look at Operation Christmas Child, it’s great when we have the huge numbers. We can say we’ve packed millions of boxes ever since Operation Christmas Child started. But to me what’s really big about the program is the idea that one box changes one child’s life.”

Making a Difference

Haydn Kinnee volunteers year-round as a logistics coordinator.

Haydn Kinnee volunteers year-round as a logistics coordinator.

Haydn Kinnee, 20, of Canby, Oregon, is taking a break from community college to work full-time. At age 18, he began serving as an Operation Christmas Child logistics coordinator, overseeing 15 drop-off locations and two central drop-off locations during National Collection Week.

This role—which he continues in now—involves visiting each location in his area to see how he can assist and gathering shoebox collection totals from them daily.

“My favorite part about my job is just being a part of Operation Christmas Child—such a great cause. You can see it’s changing lives and [it’s great] to know I’m making a difference,” Haydn said.

An Opportunity to Be Used by God

Sisters Ally and Ashlee Davies of Macungie, Pennsylvania, have been packing shoeboxes with their family since they were in first grade.

Sisters Ashlee (left) and Ally Davies serve together in Student Relations for Operation Christmas Child. Ally said that shoebox recipients “get to hear the message of Christ and the multiplication process happens, so maybe their whole village hears the Gospel.”

Sisters Ashlee (left) and Ally Davies serve together in Student Relations for Operation Christmas Child. Ally said that shoebox recipients “get to hear the message of Christ and the multiplication process happens, so maybe their whole village hears the Gospel.”

“I love packing shoeboxes because it gives a child an opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ. It gives them love and hope,” Ashlee said.

Collecting items for the boxes year-round, the duo hosted packing parties that yielded 1,000 or more shoeboxes in 2014 and 2015. Today, Ally, a sophomore at Grove City College, and Ashlee, a junior at Emmaus High School, volunteer with Operation Christmas Child year-round in student relations.

“Being a student relations volunteer means making connections and just talking with people about Operation Christmas Child,” Ally said.

“If you are a student and you have time to volunteer, I encourage you to sign up because it is an opportunity where you can be used by God to impact the people around you as well as people on the other side of the world,” Ashlee said.

Learn more about Operation Christmas Child and how to get started.

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