Local volunteers sending gift boxes to children in need | VailDaily.com

Local volunteers sending gift boxes to children in need

Lisa Chaple, left, and Laurie Knott take inventory in the back of a semi trailer during a freezing afternoon, calculating the number of Operation Christmas Child gift boxes. Those boxes will be among the hundreds of thousands sent by Samaritan's Purse to children in 130 countries
Randy Wyrick|randy@vaildaily.com |

How to help

Operation Christmas Child sends gift packages to children in 130 countries, through Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham. You can still create a box, but you need to do it online and pay for it online. Go to samaritanspurse.org.

EDWARDS — Lisa Chaple and Laurie Knott shivered in the back of a semi trailer as the cold afternoon wore on.

They’d never felt better.

Chaple is with Calvary Chapel Vail Valley and is helping ride herd on this year’s Operation Christmas Child, coordinating churches, schools and other organizations as they collect shoebox-sized packages of joy, and toys and games, which can be the same thing as joy if you’re a kid for whom Christmas doesn’t seem to work out.

77 million stories

There are about as many stories as there are boxes, and this year there were 1,372 boxes collected locally, 779 from Carbondale, 112 from Steamboat and the rest from locals. Drivers from Carbondale and Steamboat braved Monday’s storm to make sure their boxes got to the local collection point.

Chaple tells about the girl who asked God for snow, but was so disappointed when she didn’t have a white Christmas that she gave up on God.

Not long after, Operation Christmas Child rolled into her village and when she opened her box, among the toys was a small snow globe.

Then there was the boy who received a box and years later when he was in the U.S. he tracked down the people who gave it, so he could thank them. He and the girl in the family ended up married.

Alex Nsengimana survived the genocide in Rwanda by running and running and running. Around 1 million people couldn’t run and were slaughtered in three months.

Alex’s is a long story of miraculous escapes from the slaughter, long journeys and forgiveness.

His entire family was killed and eventually he ended up in the U.S. He was adopted by a Minnesota family and returned to his village as part of an Operation Christmas Child expedition. While he was there, he went to a prison where the man who’d murdered his family was being held. Alex told the man that God had enabled him to forgive the man.

Think locally, give globally

Locally, Chaple has been doing it four years. Scott Hixon did it before her. Overall, Samaritan’s Purse has been in the Operation Christmas Child business for 20 years.

Almost every church in the valley is part of it. Civic organizations are on board, Scout troops … the list goes on and on. Some schools packed boxes.

Everyone gets into the act. U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Usually the local boxes go to places like Haiti, relatively close to save shipping costs.

This year some might go to Syria, Chaple said.

Before that, though, the boxes from this part of the country will go to a collection center in Denver.

Last year, more than 9 million children received Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in more than 130 counties on six continents. They’re anticipating more this year. Colorado alone is expected to generate 700,000 boxes.

Those millions of boxes will be hand delivered to children around the world using whatever means necessary — sea containers, trucks, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, elephants and even dog sleds.

How it started

In 1990, Welsh couple Dave and Jill Cooke began Operation Christmas Child after witnessing the harsh conditions faced by children living in overcrowded Romanian orphanages. In less than three months, the Cookes had collected enough items to send a convoy of nine trucks carrying $1 million in aid supplies and thousands of gift-packed shoe boxes to bring hope and love to those Romanian children.

In 1993, the Wales-based Operation Christmas Child partnered with international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son. That gave them access to Samaritan’s Purse’s 20 years of expertise in relief work and global reach. Samaritan’s Purse works in more than 100 countries providing aid to victims of war, natural disaster, famine, disease and poverty.

In the United States, Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with 28,000 shoebox gifts. Since then, these kids helping kids have collected and hand-delivered more than 77 million shoe box gifts to needy children in more than 130 countries.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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