Today we chat with Julie Brigner, volunteer area coordinator, along with her husband, Jon, for Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelical organization. As Christmas nears, thousands of volunteers, including members of Van Dyke United Methodist Church in Lutz, pack shoebox-sized containers with donated school supplies, toys and other items destined for global destinations, from the Caribbean to Africa and Asia. Since its 1993 inception, Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 100 million boxes.
Q: Though Operation Christmas Child gears up in the fall, is preparation for the mammoth shipments a year-round effort?
Answer: Preparation begins in January each year for the next collection season. Churches and groups are contacted and engaged to participate in the project. Opportunities to generate shoebox gifts exists all year long.
Q: How did you and Jon get involved with this organization?
Answer: We began packing shoebox gifts for the project through Van Dyke United Methodist Church 15 years ago. Reaching children all around the world with the gospel has always been close to our hearts. Operation Christmas Child provides a perfect opportunity for the gospel to be shared.
Q: How many shoeboxes do you hope to send out this year — nationally and from Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas, the counties you oversee?
Answer: The 2013 Goals for OCC are ‘God sized.’ The global goal is 9.8 million, the U.S. goal is 7.5 million, the goal for the Florida/Puerto Rico region is 459,000 and the goal for the West Coast Team (Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando counties) is 36,800.
Q: If someone wants to help, how do they go about it?
Answer: They can pack shoebox gifts or donate financially at any time during the year. They can also purchase shoebox items all through the year to use at local shoebox packing parties. Many opportunities exist for volunteers to promote the project all year round.
Q: You’ve had the opportunity to meet some young recipients of these shoe box gifts. Briefly, how would you characterize that experience?
Answer: The opportunity to give a child (in many cases) the first gift (and possibly the only gift) they will receive in their life is beyond words. Knowing the Lord has directed each gift to a specific child brings great joy. The children know they are loved and the shoebox gift provides them with hope in the midst of very devastating situations. The smiles on their faces made an imprint on my life forever.
— George Wilkens