Pre­par­ing boxes of hope for kids in need else­where

In­di­vid­u­als pre­pare Christ­mas boxes to send over­seas

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

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.

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