Preparing boxes of hope for kids in need elsewhere
Individuals prepare Christmas boxes to send overseas
Cliff and Sheryl Hartsfield of Port Republic share their resources and their faith with those in need. The pair coordinates efforts in Southern Maryland to pack shoeboxes full of school supplies, hygiene items and toys for needy children around the world.
“Each [box] is going to reach a boy and a girl somewhere,” said Sheryl Hartsfield, who has been collecting and packing gifts for those in need for 21 years with her husband, Cliff. “The ultimate goal is to share the love of Jesus.”
The effort is part of Samaritan’s Purse — Operation Christmas Child. On Aug. 4, the couple hosted an annual get together for program volunteers in Southern Maryland with the goal of packing 100 boxes for youngsters overseas.
“It’s a social event where we try to be purposeful. We are teaching as we lead — as we multiply our efforts,” said Sheryl Hartsfield of the packing party with nearly two dozen guests from around the region, both young and old.
“I really am blessed to have the opportunity to bless other kids across the [world] and share the love of Christ,” said Meghan Reed of Mechanicsville.
Year round, the Hartsfields and their packing party guests buy supplies at their own expense and pack them either alone or at gatherings. In addition, each donate $9 per box for shipping. Last year, nearly 18,000 boxes were collected in the region for distribution.
“We’ll be scarfing up all the quarter boxes of crayons,” chuckled Sheryl Hartsfield, warning of a possible shortage of that item for those planning to do some back-to-school shopping.
On Friday, the group prayed over the completed shoeboxes in preparation for the next phase of the gifts’ journey.
During the program’s national collection week in November, local packers drop off their boxes at one of nine locations within the Southern Maryland’s tri-county area and Prince George’s County. The collected boxes go to a collections center in Waldorf and are then transported by tractor-trailer to a processing center in Baltimore before being shipped out from Baltimore-Washington International — Thurgood Marshall Airport to a distribution center elsewhere.
Sherry Rison from Indian Head was at the Hartsfields’ party and has been packing boxes for six or seven years. Rison now serves as a relay center coordinator making sure collected boxes in her hometown get to the program’s processing center in Baltimore.
“We take everything apart and check it and put it back together. Then it has to go on the cartons and go on the belt to be shipped,” said Huntingtown resident Art Coster, of quality checks of shoeboxes that he and his wife, Jo-Marie, have performed in a North Carolina distribution center over the last four years. “It’s a great day’s work.”
Before the boxes reach their final destination, a pamphlet titled “The Greatest Journey,” which details the Samaritan’s Purse discipleship program, is added to each box.
The Hartsfields reported last year there were almost 12 million boxes collected worldwide. Donated boxes came from Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and a host of other countries. In the U.S. alone they said there were 9 million boxes collected.
For their efforts, the Hartsfields were invited to join 80 other volunteers on a special Samaritan’s Purse team trip to Rwanda to share a message of encouragement, hope and God’s love with children through Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
During their trip, the pair said they saw some kids that were so poor that they didn’t even have their own supplies to include notebooks and pencils at school.
“These kids are almost as excited to get a notebook for school as they are about a stuffed animal,” said Sheryl Hartsfield. “We have some kids saying ‘my own notebook.’”
“The bottom line is that we love to buy and pack for the children and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them,” said Cliff Hartsfield. “They have the opportunity to further their teaching of the Bible — if they choose.”
Cliff Hartsfield of Port Republic helps a young boy open a box with a soccer ball and pump inside. Hartsfield and his wife, Sheryl, were invited to participate in an Operation Christmas Child trip to Rwanda where volunteers deliver gifts to needy children.
Sherry Rison of Indian Head selects and places items for a girl in a plastic shoebox at a packing party in Port Republic on Aug. 4. Husband Steve Rison awaits his turn. The effort is part of Samaritan’s Purse — Operation Christmas Child.
Art Coster of Huntingtown stacks plastic shoeboxes full of school supplies, hygiene items and toys for boys at a packing party in Port Republic on Aug. 4. The effort is part of Samaritan’s Purse — Operation Christmas Child.