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One box holds millions of stories
by Garrett Valenzuela
Nov 15, 2012 | 2791 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- (From left to right) Operation Christmas Child Volunteers Lorraine Saxon, Sam Green, Chris Saxon, Samantha Aguilar and Tami Berg sit before a wall of gift boxes waiting to be sent to third-world countries for Christmas.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- (From left to right) Operation Christmas Child Volunteers Lorraine Saxon, Sam Green, Chris Saxon, Samantha Aguilar and Tami Berg sit before a wall of gift boxes waiting to be sent to third-world countries for Christmas.
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SPARKS -- While at a barbeque in California, Chris and Lorraine Saxon gave a $0.25 toy to a young Ethiopian child whose eyes widened at the sight of the miniature item. When the family was told that the Saxons are a part of Operation Christmas Child, their emotions began to surface.

The Ethiopian couple began explaining the scenes when families in their home country would receive a gift box from Operation Christmas Child (OCC) and compared it to winning the lottery. So the child was simply enjoying her newly acquired riches.

“The toy we gave her daughter is so immense even though it means nothing to you and me, it means everything to them,” Chris said. “There are a million stories coming from these boxes. This year they are giving out the 100 millionth box. If one box out of 7 or 8 million that go out this year touches a kid, that is enough. All we have to do is change one kid’s life. If that was your child that it touched, you can ask yourself ‘was it worth it?’”

The Saxons are the coordinators of the collection site for OCC in northern Nevada and California, which is being held at Sparks Christian Fellowship on Greenbrae Drive. National Collection Week is in full swing as thousands of toys, hard candies, hygiene products and more are being stuffed into shoe boxes to be sent to third-world countries for Christmas.

“If we weren’t so busy while we are doing it, it would bring us to tears,” Lorraine said about being on the front lines of the donations. “People are struggling right now, really struggling; and little tiny kids come in and tell us how much they have packed in a box. People put their hearts into it.”

Chris estimates 7 or 8,000 gift boxes will be boxed and shipped overseas from the Sparks Christian Fellowship site, with about 1,000 coming from the church itself. He described the charitable act as “going on a mission without the Malaria” because of the amount of people who can participate and the amount who are affected by the donations.

“What does this one box do? You could stand there and look at it as some kid getting a sucker and a toothbrush, but what happens beyond that? That’s why we do it and why a lot of other people do it too,” he said.

Chris told several stories Thursday at the Sparks Christian Fellowship about the children affected overseas. He said a Russian girl received a pair of shoes in her box one year and wrote a letter to the donating family describing her true Christmas wish.

“She sent a letter back to these people in California saying ‘what I really need is parents,’” he said. “They adopted her. Then they told the people in church about their story with Operation Christmas Child and the church got involved. Nine people were adopted after that from the same church.”

A child in Africa who received a gift box emptied her new belongings, saved the box for an entire year and gave it to the OCC volunteers when they returned the following year. Inside the box were hand-made items from the girl, one in particular the donating family chose to display on their wall, making the family eager to visit the girl in Africa. However, the child died of AIDS before they were able to meet her.

“That is the kind of heart-wrenching story that can come out of one of these boxes,” Chris said. “When you hear all these stories, even some of the hurtful ones, it really touches people’s hearts.”

Operation Christmas Project is the largest Christmas operation of its kind and collections will be done at the Sparks Christian Fellowship until Monday. The Saxons said that most boxes can be filled by spending $10 or less at the dollar store, an act that tends to get ramped up each year.

“Most people will try it and give one box on the first year and when they come back the next year they have two or three boxes to fill. It’s contagious,” Lorraine said.

To find out how to donate, volunteer or pack a shoebox, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/occ/.
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monique nola
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November 19, 2012
Hey my hurricane friends -We also do OCC at Grace Community Church in New Orleans But, Its nowhere as big as I remembered helping Chris And Lori in 2005 in RENO. But every box is filled with Love. Thanks for being my friend.
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