For the CHIA club, Christmas arrived 41 days early, and it brought with it 117 gifts for children all around the world.
CHIA sponsored an Operation Christmas Child Collection Night on Monday, November 14 in the Gough Great Room. It was a night filled with Christmas cheer and shoe box wrapping. People could drop off shoe boxes anytime between 8 and 10:30 pm.
“Last year CHIA collected 150 boxes and our goal this year was 200,” CHIA co-leader, sophomore Marie Dailey said.
When 117 boxes were collected, Caitlin Whitesel, sophomore co-leader of CHIA, said that they were a little disappointed that they did not reach their goal, but that it was kind of expected because of all that has gone on this year. “It’s called benefactor’s burn out. People can only give so much.”
Shoe boxes were donated by individual students, entire halls and faculty in different departments.
One donation was brought in by junior Liz Thompson from the children’s program at Lower Merion Baptist Church. This was the second year for her to get the children involved with Operation Christmas Child and they assembled around 25 boxes.
“It is a way to bless people for the holiday,” first-year Kayla Nelson said.
For sophomores Amy Bilezikian and Vickie Slavik, packing shoe boxes was something that they could do together. “We did it to make some little boys’ day. We knew that they’d be excited about it and that was our motivation.”
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that shares the love of God with millions of children around the world who are poor, sick and suffering. They hand-deliver the shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies and candy.
Shoe boxes are filled according to gender and age category: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. Examples of items that can go into the boxes are stuffed animals, balls, pens, paper, combs, washcloths, hard candy and t-shirts.
“We put in it toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, soap, deodorant, toys, candy, gum, socks, bouncy balls, a yo-yo, crayons, pens, paper, little Matchbox cars and cards,” Bilezikian said. They had been told that the 10- to 14-year-old boy range usually does not get anything, so they decided to make a box for that category. “It was cool picking up things that we thought they might want.” Slavik said.
CHIA has been collecting shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for at least five years.
According to Whitesel, “Marcy Brozyna, our leader last year, made a huge push for it because her mom was involved.”
While growing up, Bilezikian packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child at her home church and thought that doing it without the help of her parents this year would be neat.
Whitesel was excited that the faculty participated. She said that someone had made a sign for the faculty telling them about the event and encouraging them to contribute.
Because each box needs $5 to cover shipping, during finals week CHIA will be selling candy cane grams in order to raise money to help with these costs.