A group of compassionate students and faculty at Shawnee State University (SSU), who call themselves members of the Operation Christmas Child at SSU, began fund-raising attempts early this year at their Christmas in July Craft Fair in Tracy Park on Friday.
The group raises money and hosts toy drives throughout the year that go towards the packing of small boxes that will be given to children in third-world countries for Christmas. These boxes contain simple and small items that these children don’t often receive and are considered valuable gifts to them.
The boxes also come with information on the teachings of Jesus Christ, since the group has religious roots in Christianity.
“Some of these things we don’t really think about, but a box of crayons can cost $8 in Uganda and some of those people only earn a dollar a day, so it is out of reach,” Shawnee State University faculty member Tiffany Pistole said. “Not only is $8 a major deal for them, but these students have to have these crayons and supplies to afford school themselves. They cannot go to school unless they have their own supplies. These boxes with supplies sometimes offer a gateway for students to go to school, some for the first time in their whole lives.”
Pistole said she has been involved in the program since 2007. She has organized high school groups and helped start the Shawnee State University chapter.
“I believe it is a really good ministry. It doesn’t just help kids with their physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well,” Pistole said. “I have received two letters from children who were very happy to receive the supplies and also hear about Jesus. It is just a wonderful feeling to do so much with so little.”
The group has currently packed over 3,000 boxes in its short lifetime and plans on boxing 2,000 more this year. To meet its goal this year, the group needs to raise $14,000 for shipping costs, plus more in donations to fill the boxes.
Some of the vendors at the craft fair included Origami Owl, Threads of Hope, Scentsy, Jamberry Nails, Pure Romance, Simplicity, Bears for Katelynn, Moonlighting Beaded Jewelry, various handmade craft vendors and more.
These events also benefit local artists and vendors, by giving them a location to sale their products at. This especially goes for Bears for Katelynn, the stuffed animals dealer that funds treatment and travel costs for the family of a special needs child of nine years old.
“This is something I do for my daughter Katelynn,” Amber Timberlake said. “Any money raised allows me to travel to and from hospitals and also allows me to stay with her. These bears let me make her my full-time job.”
Timberlake said that she started the project, because the bears were something she could make traveling, waiting in the hospital, and in most situations.
“I do take some orders, but it can be hard, since my daughter can be unpredictable,” Timberlake said. “We mostly rely on shows and festivals to showcase the bears.”
Adrienne Carver, president of Operation Christmas Child at SSU, said she considers the first event a success and raised well over $300 to go directly into the group’s finances and purchase the supplies needed to give these children their special gifts.
The money will afford shipping for over 45 boxes and thus impact 45 different lives.
“It was a great turnout for our first event of the year and it served as an overall learning experience for everyone involved,” Carver said. “We enjoyed showcasing the artwork of the vendors, as well as the business of those who sold items. It was nice to serve the community while also raising money to serve children in need. People were also interested in hearing the word of Operation Christmas Child and we look forward to hosting a like event sometime soon.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.
A craft vendor at Christmas in July