family reunions, corporate retreats

~shared by Tammy Compton

Power gliders, cop cars and rescue cruisers “Hot Wheels” style, and “Toothless” the Night Fury flying on the cover of an activity book – those are just some of the things 4-year-old Savannah chose to fill her shoebox. Great toys for a little boy somewhere in the world — possibly the first gift he’s ever been given.


Operation Christmas Child, a division of Samaritan’s Purse, is the chance to share God’s love with children in war-torn and poverty stricken countries. Shoeboxes, packed with school supplies, hygiene items, t-shirts and toys, hats and scarves and so much more, are tenderly placed in the hands of children eager to receive them.


November 17 to the 22, 2014 marks Operation Christmas Child collection week. Woodloch Pines employees have pledged 50 boxes- including help from the resort’s owners, the Kiesendahl family. 


Jackie Krewson, Samaritan’s Purse/ Operation Christmas Child NEPA Area Coordinator/ Volunteer writes, “There is still time to pack one (or two or three :) more). Your group makes a difference like this one: Nebojsa had epilepsy and often went to the hospital for treatment. When he received his box in the hospital, he opened it impatiently. Inside, he found a hat and gloves, candies and a school set including a compass and ruler. When he saw this, Nebojsa started crying. His mother explained that he was failing math class because he told the teacher he forgot his supplies, but the truth was that his family didn’t have the money to buy them. He held the supplies in his arms for a long time, with tears in his eyes.”


A note placed atop the toys in Savannah’s box also makes the eyes mist. It’s a letter dictated by a little girl to her daddy — a note sharing one child’s heart with another. “Dear Boy, This is a present just for you,” she said. “Merry Christmas. Wishing you a cheerful week. Love Savannah.”


Rory O’Fee, Marketing Director at Woodloch Pines Resort, says, “I would have written whatever she said.” Like father, like daughter. Savannah’s willingness to share doesn’t surprise Rory in the least. “I believe it is part nature and part nurture. I have control of the nurture and it’s incredibly important for me to teach my child the importance of selflessness, the rewards of giving, sharing and understanding the true meaning of holidays like Christmas, let alone just good manners,” he says.


Savannah’s cheerful giving is far from isolated. “Thankfully it’s a constant in my home, but just as recently as Halloween, Savannah said to my wife, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to go trick or treating, I’d rather walk in the parade and give other kids candy.’ True story. She ended up doing both,” the proud dad explains.


Melissa Latsch, Human Resources, couldn’t be prouder of her two boys who gave up their Halloween money to pick out and purchase gifts for O.C.C. Christopher, 7, and Joseph, 4, are just soft-hearted kids. “Christopher is always wanting to buy Joseph something with his own birthday money. I catch them both in tears when the ASPCA commercial is on with all the sad animals,” she says.


Asked if there’s ever been a time in her life when someone reached out and made a difference for her family, Melissa said, “Yes! My husband was ill for months. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. We spent countless hours, days in emergency rooms away from our children. Finally after almost a year we found out what was wrong and he needed to have brain surgery. I cannot express the amount of love and help we received during that difficult time. I will remember it forever!” Melissa explains.


“I always like to help and give back to people/children who need it the most; and now I’m so happy my children are feeling the same way,” Melissa says.


“I was lucky to grow up and have wonderful holidays with my family; and now my children are sharing the same great memories. My mom was always adopting a family at the church helping them have a great Christmas like my brother and myself had. The first year I adopted a family it was the best experience for me. I received a letter from the mom thanking me countless times and called me her daughters angel! The letter made me happy knowing the child was happy! I still continue to help a child each christmas and now my children will help me help others!” Melissa exclaimed. 


Did they pray about the items to place within their box? Rory shares, “I can’t say that we prayed about the box specifically, but the importance of God and bringing Christ to others was a topic. Veggietales definitely helped inspire the act. We wanted to be both fun and useful, so a few toys and some school supplies made it in the box.”


“I let my child be my guide,” says Brooke James, Woodloch Family Member and owner. A giving heart is just a big part of whom her 4-year-old daughter Annie is. “Annie’s always thinking about getting things for her sister, not just herself,” she says.


“Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful opportunity to give to those who are in need,” she says. Brooke’s family wants every child who receives a box to know just how much they’re loved and cared about.


Jessica Brasile, Special Events at Woodloch, couldn’t wait to include her son in Operation Christmas Child. “For me it is an amazing feeling to make a small difference in a childs life. When I brought home the boxes, my son Dominic was excited as well. He wanted to get these children everything. When I explained to him that there are children in the world that dont have ‘things’ he was upset. We both picked things that we thought would bring a smile to their faces. That is what we want –children to smile and know that they matter. They do matter and we love them,” she said. Dominic, age 7, is in second grade.


Krewson invites participants: “Be sure to add a note to your shoe box gifts to let the child know you love them and prayed for them. A picture is one of the most liked gifts in their box many children say. It will be a lovely addition. As a result of the note, a child may write back to you,” Krewson said. “Several churches that we visited in our area report that they have received notes and sometimes pictures as a result of this. Mehoopany Baptist Church in Mehoopany, PA, have had two donors who received letters. One was an eight-year-old girl who has corresponded several times with her shoe box recipient.


“Ready for another story that was told to us by the National Leadership manager in the Phillippines? young boy packed and sent a box that was distributed in the Philippines and a little girl received it. You guessed it, he got a response from a note he added to the box. It was from a young girl and they became pen pals. When he grew up, he had the opportunity to go to her country and meet her and did this several times. They are getting married! That is not to say, ‘This is a way to meet your child’s future spouse.’ But, hey, God works in mysterious ways. He has plans for us. It all started with a simple shoebox.”