Local charity shares ways to celebrate National Volunteer Week

  • Cartons filled with gifts delivered on elephants in Zimbabwe are part of Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Empty shoeboxes filled with gifts are collected and delivered to children in need in some of the hardest-to-reach countries around the world. (COURTESY PHOTO/SAMARITAN’S PURSE)
    Cartons filled with gifts delivered on elephants in Zimbabwe are part of Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Empty shoeboxes filled with gifts are collected and delivered to children in need in some of the hardest-to-reach countries around the world. (COURTESY PHOTO/SAMARITAN’S PURSE)

KAMUELA — As Americans across the country join forces for National Volunteer Week beginning this Sunday through April 29, there are many opportunities right here in Kamuela for residents to support a cause, serve their community and make a difference.

One volunteer effort making an impact here and around the world is Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Volunteers collect shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys, and deliver them to children in need around the world.

For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.

“I find it a privilege to do all I can to inspire my community to get involved in this project,” said Cindy Eilerman, who heads up the Big Island Hawaii Area Teams for Operation Christmas Child. “We know that for many of these children, this little shoebox gift is the only gift they have ever received. There is a lot of hurt and darkness in the world, and these gifts bring light and hope.”

Each year, millions of children in need in more than 100 countries find hope in a simple shoebox gift, many of whom are affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine. In 2016, Operation Christmas Child volunteers made it possible for nearly 11.5 million children to receive a shoebox gift.

This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to send enough gift-filled shoeboxes to reach another 12 million children, a feat unattainable without the more than 9,000 local volunteers who serve year-round across the country. Last year, Kamuela volunteers, families and groups paved the way as part of the Big Island Hawaii Area Teams collecting shoebox gifts for more than 3,800 children.

“The purpose of Operation Christmas Child is to send a message to children that they are loved and not forgotten,” said Nathan Bates, West Coast regional director for Operation Christmas Child. “Our volunteers can make an eternal impact on a child in need by giving their time and talents to this simple project.”

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. Since 1993, the group has collected and delivered more than 146 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories.

As volunteers gear up for another year of gift collections, the local team of Operation Christmas Child is seeking new year-round residents to join the effort. To learn more about opportunities available in the Kamuela area or to apply, call (714) 432-7030 or visit samaritanspurse.org/volunteerwithOCC.

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