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Program collects Christmas gifts for children

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    Sandy Anders, of Gettysburg, works with volunteers at Hanover First Church of God during a packing party for Operation Christmas Child in Hanover, Pa.

LIHUE >> Savannah Moura hurried across the parking lot, shoebox in hand, and walked through the doors of Breath of Life church Monday evening. Made it just in time.

“I forget it yesterday at home before I went to church,” she said shortly after presenting the box filled with gifts bound for Indonesia as part of Operation Christmas Child.

Moura wanted to do what she could after hearing about the children who would be helped through the Samaritan’s Purse program.

“It can go to a little child, just a little thing, and can make them happy,” she said.

About 2,225 shoeboxes filled with gifts for children were turned in for this year’s OCC drive led by area coordinators Mike and Christina Ensman. A team of volunteers, in a festive, celebratory mood, packed the boxes and prepared them to be shipped overseas. The effort kicked off in October and continued right up to Monday night with last-minute boxes being brought in. The community rallied behind the drive and beat last year’s total of 2,018 boxes filled with items such as stuffed animals, toy cars, hair brushes, candy and school supplies.

“Many children in Indonesia will receive a Christmas gift this year and know they are loved and not forgotten,” Christina Ensman said.

These are children, she added, who have lived through war, famine and disease. They are children who live in poverty and have little. They are children who likely have never received a Christmas gift. This year could be a first.

“It blesses me that they’re going to be blessed for Christmas,” she said. “I think it’s awesome.”

This is the third year the Ensmans have led the OCC program on Kauai. Including the 756 shoeboxes collected the first year, it has delivered more than 5,000 boxes to children overseas. Many businesses, such as the Marriott resort and Chicken in a Barrel, and many individuals, including Dr. Coy Rebmann, really stepped up, said Mike Ensman.

“Times are hard right now,” he said. “Incomes are staying the same and the cost of living is going up. And still, the community pulled together. We’re just really touched that people would sacrifice.”

Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries through OCC. This year, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 10 million children. Their laughter and smiles upon receiving the boxes, organizers say, are unforgettable.

Every single box, Mike Ensman added, will go to a child in need and will impact lives for the better. The mission of OCC is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world.”

“Virtually every child who is going to receive this has never received a present in their life,” he said.

Relay centers for OCC this year included Breath of Life, North Shore Calvary Chapel and Crossroads Christian Fellowship.

The Ensman and many volunteers contributed hundreds of hours to the success of the project over the past two months and were finally winding down Monday night. Despite being a bit weary, they plan to continue with OCC on Kauai.

“We’re tired, but not tired of it,” Mike Ensman said.

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