In the last seven years, 97-year-old Hillsboro resident Ruth Meranda says she has wrapped more than 6,200 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
Meranda told The Times-Gazette that she began wrapping boxes when the late Helen Hiestand approached her after Meranda’s eldest son died by suicide.
”I was walking down the aisle at church after a very touching service,” Meranda said. “I was crying, and I met Helen Hiestand and her husband, Ed. They came over and said they’d heard my problem. They said, ‘You’ll be able to lick this. You’re strong,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think I can.’ She said, ‘Let me help you. Can you wrap a box?’ I said, ‘I don’t wrap boxes. My daughter does all the Christmas wrapping. I don’t do them very well.’ She said, ‘Well, we just want them wrapped. We think it would be prettier if a box were to come down [wrapped] rather than as it was before: just a plain, old box wrapped in newspaper.’”
It took a little convincing before Meranda believed she would be able to wrap the shoeboxes, but her daughter, Pat, kept pushing.
“I said, ‘Pat, I can’t do that. I’ll never be able to do that,’ and [Pat] said, ‘Yes, you can, mother. You can do it.’ She kept handing it back to me, and I kept pushing it back to her,” Ruth said. “First batch I did, I did 500, and I was amazed at myself.”
Her goal now is to wrap 1,000 shoeboxes every year, and though she can’t always meet it, she takes the time to pray over each box, asking God to keep the person who receives the box and their family safe and healthy. Since she started, Meranda has broken both hips and a wrist and received a Pacemaker, but even when she’s recovering from injuries, Meranda still finds time to wrap boxes. She was recovering from a broken hip when she wrapped those first 500 boxes. This year, she’s recovering from another broken hip, but she’s already wrapped 600.
“We might still get to 1,000 boxes,” Meranda said, “but we’ll still have a surplus for the other churches.”
Once their church meets its quota, Meranda’s daughter, Pat, takes her mother’s boxes to other churches. Pat, who calls herself the cutter of wrapping paper, replacer of tape and transporter of boxes, estimated that one roll of wrapping paper can wrap 20 boxes. In order to wrap 1,000 boxes, the Merandas would need about 50 rolls of paper. Pat said it’s impossible to find Christmas wrapping paper when they run out, especially since when it becomes available in stores, it’s essentially too late.
“We prefer paper that has a specific pattern with [guide]lines [on the inside],” Pat said. “After Christmas, when the paper goes on sale, grab one for yourself, but also grab one for the church.”
Anyone who would like to donate wrapping paper to Meranda’s efforts can drop it off at the Hillsboro First United Methodist Church at 133 E. Walnut St. First United Methodist also has shoeboxes for those interested in wrapping shoeboxes themselves.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.