"These Boxes Change Kids' Lives"

November 16, 2015 • United States
Packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes has become a passion for the whole Friedman family.

A large family in Minnesota packs hundreds of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

The Friedman family of Becker, Minnesota, packed 505 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes this year. Parents Steve and Chris have led their 11 children in packing one to two shoeboxes a year for the Samaritan’s Purse project for more than 15 years, but last year they expanded and did 37. Excited about filling that many, they thought of how much more fun it would be to fill 100 boxes in 2015 so they could bless 100 children.

Sixteen-year-old Adair particularly caught the vision of the project and encouraged her family to get involved. “She was infectious,” Chris said. The scope of the project just kept growing.

You Can Pack a ShoeboxStarting on Black Friday 2014, Adair began shopping for items to meet their goal using the money she was earning from her first job as a lifeguard. Thirteen-year-old Noah who collects cans for cash used his can money to buy hammers for shoebox gifts for teenage boys. Alyssa, 10, started knitting hats. Sisters Kerry, 14, and Rainna, 11, knit headbands with flowers on them for girl boxes. Brothers Teddy, 21, Isaiah, 19, and Parker, 18, bought school supplies during back-to-school sales. Even 6-year-old Johnny got involved making crosses out of Perler beads.

Chris said, “Adair’s the organizer and the motivator. We’re just her minions.”

Adair displays some of the fabric bags that her late grandmother made for the shoeboxes.

Adair displays some of the fabric bags that her late grandmother made for the shoeboxes.

Adair’s older sister Tanna who lives in Nashville didn’t want to miss out of the family’s project, so she and her husband sent a big box full of toothbrushes, washcloths, pens, and pencil sharpeners. The oldest child, Nick, who is a car salesman in Bemidji, Minnesota, has been saving his bonuses all year to contribute toward the $7 shipping donation* requested for each shoebox.

Even their Grandma Kate got involved. Despite suffering from lung disease, she worked with her grandchildren to make fabric bags that could be included in the shoeboxes. She passed away a couple weeks ago, but her creations will still be sent to children around the world in the shoebox gifts. Adair said, “It’s really special because she wanted these to go to the kids.”

They also invited others beyond the family to participate. Thinking of the friends and neighbors who have gotten involved, Chris said, “It’s been a rollercoaster to a really great thing.” Many community members financially contributed toward the shipping expenses. “Even our pastor’s little daughter brought $7 in a little baggie for shipping,” Chris said.

“It’s been a rollercoaster to a really great thing.”

Adair visited local businesses, asking if they would donate items to the project. A screen printer donated T-shirts and hats, a hotel provided soap and sewing kits, and McDonald’s gave Happy Meal toys. The Friedmans even drove an hour to pick up a carton of toothbrushes from a dentist in their state capital, St. Paul.

“We just kept getting more and more and more,” Adair said. Realizing that they probably had enough for more than 100 boxes, Chris encouraged Adair to inventory the gifts that filled their basement. She came up with a list of more than 7,500 items. Packing a few sample boxes and counting their contents, they figured they had enough to fill at least 400 boxes.[Editor’s note: When they finally had their packing party this past weekend, they ended up with 505 gift-filled shoeboxes.]

“You should see our house,” Chris said. “We’ve been eating in the family room because our table is piled literally to the ceiling with shoeboxes.”

Their motivation is simple. “I think it is an amazing program that tells people about Jesus,” Adair said. “These boxes change kids’ lives.”

The Friedman packing party ended with 505 shoeboxes stuffed and ready to be processed.

The Friedman packing party ended with 505 shoeboxes stuffed and ready to be processed.

The family prays over each shoebox, asking that the child who receives it would come to know the Lord as their Savior.

“I think it is an amazing program that tells people about Jesus.”

“It’s been such a great blessing for our family to be able to come together and serve the Lord in this way,” Chris said. She notes that there are other things her children could have spent their money on. Noah, for example, didn’t go to movies because he was buying hammers instead. And Adair spent her checks from lifeguarding on Operation Christmas Child.

Discover More About Operation Christmas Child“It’s neat for my husband and I to see their giving and loving attitude,” Chris said. “They’re excited to give the things, but they’re also excited that the Gospel can be shared. They get it.”

*The suggested per shoebox donation is $9 as of 2017.