JOHNSBURG – Susan Schmidt loves telling volunteers the cardboard box they’re filling is more than just a shoebox.
The toys, school supplies, basic hygiene items and treats will be unwrapped by a child somewhere in the world through Operation Christmas Child, a program Schmidt has been working with for five years.
This past spring, the Gurnee resident got to see the unwrapping firsthand on a volunteer trip with the organization to Rwanda.
“You would see sometimes the children praying over the shoeboxes and holding them tight,” Schmidt said. “Some of them didn’t want to open them because they couldn’t believe it was for them.”
Schmidt will be sharing her experiences at a 9 a.m. service Sunday at Joyful Harvest Lutheran Church in Johnsburg.
The African Children’s Choir, a group of children ages 7 to 10, also will perform before starting its nationwide tour.
A potluck will follow the service. Both are open to the public.
The service is a kickoff to the church’s participation in Operation Christmas Child, program spokeswoman Sarah Metraus said.
This will be the first church in McHenry County to join the project, which was started by Samaritan’s Purse. The organization works to provide assistance and to spread Christianity.
Items will be collected at some 4,000 drop-off sites around the country during the week of Nov. 17 to 24, and shoeboxes will be filled by volunteers like those in Johnsburg.
Gifts can be sent year-round to the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, North Carolina, and shoeboxes can also be built year-round through an online tool.
The shoeboxes will move from Johnsburg to Minneapolis, where one of nine processing centers is located, and from there to Madagascar, Zambia, Kenya and India, Metraus said.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has distributed shoeboxes to more than 113 million children in more than 100 countries.
The hardest part of the trip, Schmidt said, was knowing she couldn’t give a shoebox to every child she saw.
“At packing events, I would tell the volunteers that it’s not one simple shoebox, not just a cardboard box,” she said. “It can change a child’s life.”