Monticello-based Electro Industries recently completed its 12th year as a collection site for Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest project of its kind.
Children in Madagascar, Zambia, Kenya, and India will receive boxes that are shipped from Monticello to the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Minneapolis, said Krista Smith, who coordinates the Monticello Operation Christmas Child effort at Electro Industries.
Since 1993, the Samaritan’s Purse project has delivered more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Operation Christmas Child expects to collect another 9.8 million shoebox gifts in 2013.
Individuals, families and groups fill shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement and drop them at collection centers. While a shoebox will often travel thousands of miles, Operation Christmas Child participants can follow their box with a form found at samaritanspurse.org. Donors can also receive an email telling them the country where their shoeboxes have been delivered.
National Operation Christmas Child Collection Week was Nov. 18 to Nov. 25. Early during the collection effort, Smith showed how the boxes are packed and held for collection in Monticello. A group from Riverside Alliance Church had delivered 370 shoeboxes and another group from Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) had delivered about 500 boxes. Smith and Operation Christmas Child local volunteers handled 6,718 total boxes last year; this year’s gift goal is 8,000 boxes.
“My personal involvement with Operation Christmas Child started over 20 years ago when my kids were younger,” Smith said in a recent email. “I was looking for an organization where I could take them during Christmastime to teach them the blessing to give to others during the season when so much emphasis is put on what you want or get.”
Smith began taking her children down to the Minneapolis Processing Center every year, where the family would work in the processing center sorting and processing the shoeboxes from around Minnesota to prepare them to be shipped to other countries in need. “Every year I would take them shopping. Each one would pack their own box and we would deliver them personally to the processing center when we went to volunteer,” she said.
According to Smith, participating in Operation Christmas Child helped her kids understand how the little boxes made such a difference when combined with so many others. “Soon I began to start bringing down boxes from others who wanted to give as well,” she said. “When that became too much, I looked up where the closest local collections center or relay center was for them to drop them off themselves. I was completely surprised to discover that the closest one to Monticello was in Brooklyn Park.”
That led Smith to ask what it would take to bring a location closer to the Monticello area. “I happened to be a part-owner of a family business in Monticello and began the process of finding out if we could join the efforts of Operation Christmas Child in this area,” she said. “The following year, Electro opened up its doors to be the central Minnesota collection center for this area. We remained the only location to drop off a shoebox for the first 8 years. But over the past two years we’ve added seven additional drop-off locations (Relay Centers) that now feed into our collection site,” Smith said.
For 10 days a year Electro Industries provides office space, shipping supplies, storage and people power to allow thousands of shoeboxes to be dropped off in Monticello during National Collection Week, Smith said.
“During that week, we set up our conference room as National Collection Week Central and are open to warmly greet, receive boxes and assist in the paperwork of dropping off shoeboxes to be sent over the world to children everywhere who do not have the simplest of things, things we take for granted here every day,” she said. “We set aside a large part of a storage area in our shipping department to store and package the boxes we receive. We have volunteers scheduled to serve all day, every day for 10 days to collect our area boxes.”
Electro Industries opens up one its loading docks and keeps semi truck trailer available so volunteers can pack the trailer daily with the boxes that are received. “We maintain not only the bookkeeping for our collection center but also compile together and calculate all the paperwork for the additional seven relay centers from this area,” she said.
As an area coordinator, Smith trains relay center volunteers and supplies them with all needed materials and equipment. “I also work with the trucking company for drop offs and pick ups, and I’m am the liaison between running our normal business and being a collection site for the 10 days,” Smith said, adding she also schedules volunteers and trains them as they work. “I do all the paperwork for not only our collection site but the final paperwork for our entire area,” she said.
Trude Schlangen is the central Minnesota area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. She recruits, selects and trains volunteers in Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, and Wright counties.
“Monticello is our main hub in collecting the shoebox gifts from the four county areas,” Schlangen said. “Our six other drop-off locations transport boxes they collect during collection week to Monticello where they are counted and loaded. Krista orchestrates our efforts at Electro.”
Operation Christmas Child’s national collection week for gift-filled shoeboxes was Nov. 18 to Nov. 25; however, shoebox gifts are collected year-round at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C. Additionally, visit www.www.samaritanspurse.org to pack a shoebox online with just a few clicks of the computer mouse.
You can personalize your gift with a note, upload a photo and make a donation in minutes. A $30 donation is suggested. Samaritan’s Purse is the Christian relief and evangelism organization that works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]