The Sanctuary Church is collecting shoeboxes for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child national collection week through Monday, Nov. 20. The Restoration Church and Valencia Hills Community Church will be participating as drop-off locations.
On Sunday morning, four community members from The Sanctuary church volunteered to prepare dozens of different items so children from the church could participate in a packing party and give back to children in need. One hundred and fifty boxes were filled during the packing party and more will be collected throughout the week.
Operation Christmas Child is a program that began as a “nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world,” states the program’s website. And “more than 220,000 volunteers from the United States are involved in collecting, shipping and distributing shoebox gifts.”
The Sanctuary Church is one small portion of the bigger picture. Other countries such as Australia, Finland, Canada, Spain, and many more participate in the program.
Last year the Sanctuary Church collected over 2,000 boxes.
“When you watch one of the videos of (the) kids opening this box … there is nothing that makes my heart happier than to see their happiness. It gives me a perspective of life, of how much I have and I’m always complaining,” said Vanessa Dupont. “And they get (these) little things, and they’re like, ‘jackpot.’”
Dupont said that all the items to fill up 150 boxes at the packing party were donations provided by the church, so the children and their parents didn’t have to pay for any items to participate in the experience.
The volunteers assisting Dupont were Ofelia Galvan, Jesse Galvan, Larry Smith and her daughter Brooke Dupont.
When filling up a shoebox, individuals are provided with a brochure where they can select to donate to a boy or girl from the ages of 2 to 14. This allows people to create a more personal and age-appropriate gift for the child who will receive it.
Some items that go into the shoebox are school clothes, pencils, erasers, crayons, toothbrushes and hairbrushes, and toys, said Bob Dodes.
Slowly the children trickled in and began to select items set on the tables to put in their shoeboxes. The children also wrote personalized notes for each box with words such as “I am praying and thinking about you,” said Dupont.
“The other recipient will never forget that. They think, ‘Somebody that I never met before loves me so much,’” said Dupont. “This is so dear to me because I feel like I am being worthy of my call.”
Linda Dodes and her husband Bob Dodes have been organizing the Operation Christmas Child program with The Sanctuary Church for five years. On Sunday morning during the 11 a.m. service in front of the entire congregation, they were recognized for their giving hearts.
Linda said that every box is prayed over before it makes its way down to Fullerton in a trailer. They pray that it is received by the perfect person who needs the contents of the box.
“We’ve had stories like a young man, a teenager in Africa couldn’t go to school because he’d outgrown his last pair of shoes. In his box, he had a pair of flip-flops and he cried because now he could go to school,” said Linda.
Linda also shared a different story where a young girl received a box with five pairs of working gloves in it. While other children around her were opening their gifts and revealing toys, she was happy because the men in her family were currently not working due to their injured hands. With the working gloves she received, she knew that her family would be able to have food again.
“You hear those stories over and over and it’s like, ‘Lord over you,’” said Linda.
Shoeboxes can be dropped off to the following locations:
• The Sanctuary, 26444 Friendly Valley Parkway, Santa Clarita.
• Restoration Church, 23670 Wiley Canyon Road, Santa Clarita.
• Valencia Hills Community Church, 24933 Avenue Stanford, Valencia.