Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feature Article: Wrapped With Love

Editor's Note: This feature ran in the  Wednesday, Nov. 18, issue of the Siloam Springs Herald-Leader.

By Kaylea Hutson
SILOAM SPRINGS — The smile never left Billie Doublehead’s face as she wrapped boxes during the Operation Christmas Child Community Shoebox party,held Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Siloam Springs.

“I just love doing this,” she said. “You just get excited to help kids have a good Christmas.”

Doublehead was just one of numerous volunteers who helped wrapand fill 353 shoeboxes during the two-hour event.

This is the sixth year for the community party. Organizer Lane McLoud said this was the most boxes filled during a single event.

“This year, we had the most donationsfrom the community, including items to pack into the boxes and money to help pay for the shipment charges,” McLoud said. “It’s exciting to see how this effort has grown in the past few years. Hopefully, next year’s party will be even bigger.”

Many volunteers, including members of the men’s basketball team at John Brown University, helped staff carnival games, which let children win prizes, like crayons, pencils and candy. Those items were thenused to fill many of the shoeboxes.

“I thought this was a neat opportunity, with the holidays coming up, to get together with the players and get out to do some community work,” explained Clark Sheehy, headbasketball coach at JBU. “We’ve talked about what Operation Christmas Child does and how they are literally spreading the gospel around the world.”

Sheehy said team members were excited to help with the project. He hoped his players walked away from the event knowing how much fun they can have while serving others.

Making it personal
This was Andrea Hair’s third community shoebox party. The junior at JBU became involved with OCC in high school, when members of her home church traveled to a regional processing center in Minneapolis, Minn.

“This is a really cool program because you get to help kids in completely different countries,” Hair said. “[Samaritan’s Purse is] so committed with sharing the gospel. You are making a difference in kids’ lives for eternity.”

Hair has enjoyed volunteering with OCC so much, she eventually hopes to work for the ministry after graduating from JBU.

Another volunteer, Fran O’Neal, took time to create a note for one of her completed boxes. O’Neal became involved with the organization approximately 12 years ago.

“It’s fun to bless people who don’t have anything,” O’Neal said.

National Collection Week
In addition to participating in the event at First UMC, Doublehead has spent the last year purchasing items at rummage and clearance sales to fill boxes at her home.

Last week she invited neighborhood children to help bag candy and make cards for approximately 100 boxes in anticipation of this week’s OCC National Collection drive.

Doublehead’s boxes, along with those made at First UMC, will be taken to the local Operation Christmas Child collection site at Sager Creek Community Church for further processing.

The church, located at 1600 Cheri Whitlock Drive, will collect boxes from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today through Friday, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 524-3577.

Cutlines (From the top)
1) Samuel Johnson, a freshman member of the John Brown University men’s basketball team, signs Karson Clement’s shirt during the annual community shoebox party. As he played the various carnival games, Clement asked the basketball players present if they would autograph his JBU t-shirt.

2) Billie Doublehead jokes with Jonathan Sparks, a junior at John Brown University, at the wrapping station. The pair helped wrap shoeboxes, so they could be filled during the carnival.

3) Megan Glen decorates Nate Payne’s face during the annual shoebox carnival. Glen, along with two of her friends, staffed the face painting booth.

4) Fran O’Neal, a long-time supporter of Operation Christmas Child in Siloam Springs, creates a note for the child that will receive her shoebox during the annual community shoebox carnival.

5) Brenton Hilderbrand shows his mother, Johnna, one of the stuffed animals he found in a prize box during the annual shoebox carnival.

6) Cody Thomas organizes a variety of items into his shoebox during the annual shoebox party at First United Methodist Church.

7) Adrian Miller watches as 5-year-old Brenton Hilderbrand tosses a bean bag into a Christmas tree during the annual shoebox party.

8) Sam Young, a freshman at John Brown University, adds a filled shoebox to the completed pile. Volunteers filled approximately 350 shoeboxes during the annual community party at First United Methodist Church in Siloam Springs.

9) Amber Carter helps her daughter, Avery, complete a personal note to go in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.

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