A donation of 500 toys from EAST Ambulance on Monday brought Operation Christmas Child another step closer to its goal of 1,000 shoeboxes filled with gifts for needy children around the world.
“They made a huge contribution,” said Helen Hiestand, who along with her husband, Ed, serves as a “connect volunteer” with Operation Christmas Child. The toys were from the employees of EAST Ambulance. EAST stand for Eastern Area Specialty Transport.
“I just know they are wonderful, caring people who are making a difference,” said Hiestand.
Hiestand is hoping for a big turnout at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Hillsboro United Methodist Church to help pack the OCC boxes, which are distributed to children worldwide.
Hiestand said the ministry is more meaningful than many people realize. To most children in the United States, the contents of the shoeboxes might not be impressive. But to children in poor nations, the gifts are life changing, she said.
The shoeboxes contain items including small toys, notebooks, crayons, pencils, pens and even toothbrushes. There are boxes designated for boys and for girls.
Hiestand said that being part of Operation Christmas Child “is one of the most enriching things I’ve ever done in my life.” She said handing the box of goodies to a child and watching their reaction is rewarding in itself. And when the boxes are delivered to places like orphanages, “it impacts a whole community,” she said.
Hiestand stressed that Operation Christmas Child is a ministry, and through it, “children are introduced to Jesus, and to hope.” She added, “A lot of these children don’t have much hope.”
In addition to the toys, Hiestand said it costs about $7,000 to ship 1,000 shoeboxes filled with gifts.
Jodi Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing for EAST Ambulance, said the company tries to focus its charitable giving on the biggest needs of the communities it serves. She said local resident Maggie Horst brought to her attention Operation Christmas Child’s need for more donations.
“We thought that Operation Christmas Child touches the community at its heart,” said Jackson. She said the company believes that employee morale is boosted through the opportunity to help others.
Operation Christmas Child is a worldwide children’s project of Samaritan’s Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoeboxes to let hurting boys and girls know that they are loved and not forgotten.
More than 10 million shoe boxes were delivered to 100 countries in 2014. More than 11,000 of those were shoeboxes collected in the five-county South Central Ohio Area, which includes Highland County.
Every day, boys and girls worldwide suffer from war, poverty, disease and natural disaster. Operation Christmas Child “makes it possible for millions of these children to experience God’s love through shoe boxes filled with gifts,” according to the organization.
For more information about Samaritan’s Purse go to www.samaritanspurse.org. For more information on Operation Christmas Child’s local efforts or to volunteer, contact Ed and Helen Hiestand at 937-725-8192.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.