Students give back this Christmas season

By Rachel Batdorff

Brittany Rooze helps wrap a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. (Photo by Rachel Batdorff)

On Nov. 15, the Joe Mertz Center hosted a wrapping and collection party for Operation Christmas Child in the Huntington Union Building. In addition, all 16 university varsity sports teams along with the cheer squad, president’s office and university relations office are currently in the process of purchasing gifts and a Christmas meal for their sponsored families in the Adopt-a-Family for Christmas project.
“We had 36 boxes turned in from students and staff,” Jessica Sweeney, a senior and the JMC program coordinator, said of the Operation Christmas Child wrapping party. “We had quite a few floors get together to put together shoeboxes as well as people who came in just to wrap.”
Grace McBrayer, director of volunteer service and outreach ministry, said JMC has a long history of working with Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse.
“It may be as far back as 1992 when JMC first began,” McBrayer said. “It was at least 1998 when I was a freshman at Huntington.”
Students and staff who participated in Operation Christmas Child first picked out the gender and age of the child they would like to purchase gifts for, McBrayer said. They were then given a list of suggested gifts to include in a shoebox such as school items, toys and hygiene products.
“It averages around $15 for the items in the box plus $7 to ship,” McBrayer said.
“The students this year were very proactive about bringing the shipping donation with their shoebox,” Sweeney said.covering the remaining $63 for boxes that did not include shipping cost.
Both McBrayer and Sweeney said they agreed the wrapping party was a success.
“Students who come and do it love it,” McBrayer said. “They compare what they bought for their boxes, and several also wrote letters and took photos to include in the box.”
JMC also sponsored a contest to see which floor could bring the most boxes as a way to promote the event and get students excited.
“Roush 1st won with 13 boxes and got a pizza party,” Sweeney said. “They brought their entire floor to the wrapping party.”
McBrayer said she considers Operation Christmas Child, which sends boxes to more than 100 countries, to be a great way for students to help others in need.
“College students generally don’t have much money, and this allows them to contribute at their level,” she said.
Sweeney said that the boxes will provide joy to children all over the world.
“It’s exciting to hear about the reactions of children to the things you bought, like crayons that only cost a few dollars,” she said. “It’s great that we’re able to make an impact on a place thousands of miles away from here.”
Students are also giving back to families right here in the Huntington community.
“All 16 varsity teams, the cheer squad, the president’s office and the public relations office are participating in the Adopt-a-Family for Christmas project,” Lori Culler, athletic director, said.
This will be the fourth year sports teams have participated in this service, which is run through Love In the Name of Christ of Huntington County.
“Some teams are going together to sponsor a family like both cross country teams and both track teams,” Culler said. “Each team or group is sponsoring at least one family with the size of the family ranging from two children to five.”
Seventeen families are being sponsored.
Katie Johnson, a junior tennis player, is in charge of her team’s Christmas family.
“I asked that everyone on our team contribute $10,” she said. “It’s optional, so they don’t have to contribute.”
Once the money is collected, the team shops for their assigned family.
Johnson said she sets up a time for her team to get together to shop for the kids in the family along with items for the Christmas meal.
“Then we’ll have a get-together as a team with cookies and hot chocolate as we wrap presents,”she said.
Culler said the athletic department chose to participate in this project to help develop character in NAIA athletes.
“We chose the Adopt-a-Family Christmas project because it would have a direct impact on those in our local community,” she said.

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