Volunteers pose with the truck donated by Cantor Brothers in Kona filled with Operation Christmas Child boxes. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTANN CARPIO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Volunteers pack and stack boxes for Operation Christmas Child in a warehouse. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTANN CARPIO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Volunteers pack 40 boxes of shoeboxes to send to Nepal. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTANN CARPIO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Keiki volunteers pose for a photo with a truckload of Operation Christmas Child boxes ready for shipping. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTANN CARPIO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
About nine years ago, Kristann Carpio was the women’s director at Waimea’s New Beginnings Assembly of God. Looking to find a volunteer project that would help people locally as well as overseas, she found out about Operation Christmas Child, an organization which sends gift-packed shoeboxes to children all over the world.
“We built seven shoeboxes in the first year … we thought we were the bomb!” Carpio said with a laugh.
The shoeboxes are filled with everything from pencils to stuffed animals and toys. Sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have received shoebox gifts since 1993.
Carpio said that in that first year, the drop-off point was in Hilo. Her car had a flat tire, and she managed to find someone to deliver the seven shoeboxes to Hilo on time. Excited about the project, the second year they packed 12 shoeboxes. In the third year, she was named “collection coordinator” and there was a huge response.
“Many people had known about this project, but didn’t know how to get involved. We networked with a lot of people we knew, and in 2008, we became a real collection center,” said Carpio. “We sent out 179 shoeboxes that year and we thought it was awesome.”
Fast forward to 2013, and this year the volunteers were able to pack a total of 737 shoeboxes. Carpio said her volunteer district stretches from North Kohala to North Kona, Waimea to right outside of Hilo, and everyone helped.
The simple idea to give shoebox gifts to children who have been affected by war, poverty, famine and disaster has grown to major proportions. This year, the shoeboxes from Hawaii will be going to Nepal.
“Sometimes people ask us why we do this for kids so far away, rather than help our local kids,” said Carpio. “But I have seen the power of a simple gift touch a poor child, and this is why we do it.”
It is the impact on the children that is so gratifying for those who work with Operation Christmas Child. Now there is a program online where people can build a shoebox for $30 and choose what goes into it; essentials like crayons or socks, and small items like harmonicas or calculators.
“Here (in the U.S.) we can give a child a No. 2 pencil, but give it someone from a poverty-stricken country, and they think you are fabulous,” said Carpio.
With 737 shoebox gifts packed into 40 large cartons, Carpio and her team needed help with transportation to Hilo. Paul Cantor of Cantor Brothers in Kona stepped in and volunteered his transport services to meet the deadline.
“On a Sunday, Paul Cantor came all the way from Kona, came through Waimea, picked up the boxes and dropped them in Hilo,” said Carpio. “So it was really awesome that the community came together as well to accomplish this, which has been our objective.”
It’s not too late to give a shoebox gift to a needy child. See how this simple gift box affects children by visiting www.operationchristmaschild.org.