End the Year with Cheer: Teaching kids about giving

Mike Ross teams up with his daughter Amanda to help kids with “Operation Christmas Child”
Mike Ross teams up with his daughter, Amanda, to spread some cheer with "Operation Christmas Child".
Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 8:04 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - I’ve always believed that children are God’s greatest gift to us, so to spread some cheer to children in need, I enlisted the help of one of my own children, my 18-year-old daughter Amanda.

We decided to take part in a program run by the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “Operation Christmas Child” was started in 1993, according to the organization’s website, and since then, it has collected and delivered more than 178 million shoeboxes filled with gifts to children in more than 160 countries and territories.

Mike Ross and his daughter, Amanda, about to go shopping for "Operation Christmas Child".
Mike Ross and his daughter, Amanda, about to go shopping for "Operation Christmas Child".(Alaska's News Source)

Thousands of people across the country fill the shoeboxes with a variety of toys, school supplies and toiletry items, and each one is tailored to the child’s gender and age. The shoeboxes are then collected at local churches, sent to regional distribution centers and then sent overseas by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.

Anchorage Baptist Temple is one of the main collection points in Alaska. ABT Pastor Ron Hoffman said members of the congregation work on the project year-round.

“I think that everybody should be participating in this, because kids need hope today, especially with this COVID-19 going on, kids need hope,” said Hoffman.

"Operation Christmas Child" shoe boxes being collected at Anchorage Baptist Temple.
"Operation Christmas Child" shoe boxes being collected at Anchorage Baptist Temple.(Alaska's News Source)

When I asked my daughter if she would help with this project, she gave a very enthusiastic “absolutely!” and I figured who better to pick out gifts for a kid than another kid, right?

So, on a Saturday afternoon, we were off to the store for Amanda’s shopping spree. My daughter had a very clear idea about her gift list. Less than an hour later, she was done and it was back home to pack our shoebox.

Samaritan’s Purse suggests including one “wow!” item to catch the recipient child’s attention, which in our case was a girl from 10-to-14 years old. What was Amanda’s choice for a “wow!” gift?

“I decided on this cute, squishable stuffed puppy,” Amanda said as she showed off her gift, “because, who doesn’t like puppies?”

Amanda Ross showing the "wow!" gift she selected.
Amanda Ross showing the "wow!" gift she selected.(Alaska's News Source)

Amanda’s gift list also included colorful gel pens, a pack of colored pencils and a journal for writing and drawing, along with a small Etch-a-Sketch. My daughter said she picked those because she is big into creativity. On the fun side, she included a small football that has flashing lights inside and several strings of fashionable plastic beads. On the more practical side, she picked out a very nice shirt and a set of toothbrushes. My contribution was a pack of colorful low-rise socks.

One of my goals in asking my daughter to take part in this was to reinforce the importance of giving to others, and I asked Amanda how she felt after packing the shoebox. “This made me feel like I was really doing something that was bigger than myself,” she said. She added, “giving is a two-way street... you give, and you will receive back.”

It’s a lesson that volunteers with Operation Christmas Child hope all young people will learn.

“We just find it so valuable to teach our kids that there’s a big world out there, and they can make a big impact in somebody else’s life,” said Tim Brandon, the kids’ pastor at ABT.

Sometimes, making that big impact is as simple as packing a shoebox with gifts, to bring some cheer and hope to a child in need, far away.

The Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes were collected the week before Thanksgiving, but you can still help by building a shoebox online at the Samaritan’s Purse website.

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