Fort Riley, Kansas

 

News

Shoeboxes support children in need

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | October 27, 2017

     “It’s an amazing way to show your family that other people around the world are important, have value,” said John Malmquist, community director for Club Beyond at Fort Riley. “It’s a way to love others.”

     The Religious Services Office and Club Beyond, which is the chapel youth program at Fort Riley, as well as partner organizations, have teamed up to create a collection point for Operation Christmas Child. This is the second year they have participated in the event through a combined effort.

      “Operation Christmas Child is a way to share the love of God with children around the world in third world countries,” Malmquist said. “They gather up shoeboxes from all over the United States filled with toys and pictures and letters to the respective child and they distribute those where they need to go. It’s a real practical way to share the love of God for those in need.”

     Community members fill shoeboxes with items to be shipped to children in need in third world countries, Malmquist said. The boxes are delivered to the children in late December. Fort Riley’s collection point is located inside the main doors of Victory Chapel at 2560 Trooper Drive.

      While the official collection dates are Nov. 13 to 20, Malmquist said Fort Riley’s collection point would accept donations from Nov. 6 to 12, while churches in the surrounding communities will take the boxes during the official dates. This creates an extended donation period for those wishing to participate.

      “In the past, we’ve had several people who missed the deadline,” he said. “We start before then so if someone brings their box in late, we can still get it there.”

       This year, Malmquist said he hopes to collect 1,000 boxes from the Fort Riley community.

     “Our goal is to reach 1,000 shoe boxes this year,” he said. “Last year our goal was 300 and the Fort Riley community was gracious and provided over 750 shoe boxes, which was just amazing.”

     Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 150 countries and territories. According its website, in 2016 they collected enough shoeboxes for 12 million children.

      To prepare a shoebox gift, participants may visit Victory Chapel to pick up a box or supply their own cardboard or plastic shoebox with a lid. If the participant would like to wrap the box, they should wrap the lid and box separately, so the box may be easily inspected by customs agents. Malmquist said he and his family purchase plastic shoeboxes because they can be reused by the recipient for some time after.

     “We like to not use a cardboard shoebox, but we go and we use plastic bins that are about the same size and that way the child has something to carry water they can actually wash with,” he said.

       After selecting a shoebox, participants should mark the box with the age and gender of the child the gift is for. Then it’s up to them to fill the gift with toys, such as a deflated soccer ball with a pump, stuffed animal, marbles, puzzles and more. Other items like washcloths, soap, toothbrush, combs, hair ribbons, pencils, sandals and age-appropriate clothing items may also be packed into the box.

      Items with expiration dates should not be included in the box as customs agents will remove the items and delay delivery, Malmquist said.

     “Do not include candy, food of any kind or toothpaste and the reason being is because toothpaste has an expiration date on it and some of the customs officials in other countries are using that as a reason to go through all the boxes and hold up the distribution,” he said.

      Malmquist said other items, like military or war themed toys, such as toy guns, knives and grenades should not be packed. Additionally, toys that require batteries should not be included as the children may be unable to replace them.

     Once the boxes are collected, they travel to a distribution center before being divided up and making their way to the country of a child in need. According to the website, this is the first year they are offering a tracking service for the boxes. For a $9 donation, participants can print and attach a label to their box to see where it travels to.

     Nine-year-old Hannah Malmquist said she has already packed 10 boxes with her mother. She said she enjoys being able to bring a smile to another child’s face, even when she cannot see it herself.

     “I think it’s a really good program because it makes me feel really good giving away gifts to children and families in need and it’s also just really nice to do it,” she said.

     Some items for the shoeboxes, including toys, sandals, school supplies and more, may be picked up at Victory Chapel for free, Malmquist said.

     For more information about Operation Christmas Child, including suggested items to pack and how to pack a shoebox, visit the website www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child.