Millions of kids wake up Christmas morning without any presents, but — with the help of Belmont students — Operation Christmas Child is working on changing that.
Operation Christmas Child is an annual donation drive that gives people the opportunity to pack shoeboxes full of hygiene items and toys and send them to children all around the world who would not otherwise receive Christmas presents.
For the past four years, Belmont students and student organizations have gathered together to pack these very special boxes.
“I think it shows there is a lot of good left in people,” Belmont sophomore Holly Vasuta said. “It means to me that people still care about other people, even if they don’t know them.”
Vice President for Spiritual Development Todd Lake has been involved with Operation Christmas Child since Belmont started participating.
“This will be our fourth year that Belmont has been involved with Operation Christmas Child,” Lake said. “We started just trying to see how much interest there would be.”
The Belmont community showed immediate interest, and Belmont has continued to produce more boxes each year.
“This year, our goal is over 650 boxes. We are trying to best the record each year,” Lake said.
The boxes are full of things that others might think of as basic necessities rather than gifts — such as toothpaste and socks.
“I love Operation Christmas Child because it is one of those services where you are getting things kids need. It is things some people take for granted,” said Belmont Student Government Association Vice President Macy Thompson.
“It is eye opening.”
Thompson has been packing boxes since she was in high school and is still helping SGA promote Operation Christmas Child.
“SGA’s role is to be a starter. We really want to encourage other organizations to come to us and ask questions like how to get involved,” Thompson said.
SGA rewards the organizations that pack the most boxes with money to fund their organization — which is an added incentive — but to some students, changing children’s lives is enough.
“To them, it means that someone out there cares about them, and hopefully it confirms their faith,” Vasuta said.
Lake experienced firsthand the impact Operation Christmas Child has on people when he traveled to Columbia with the organization.
“When you see the smile on the faces of the children and their families, that’s something you never forget,” Lake said.
One group of kids in particular left the biggest impression on Lake.
“Sixty kids had the idea ‘this year we won’t get the boxes for ourselves. We’ll invite our friends and neighbors who are not involved in any church.’ So these 60 very poor children gave up getting a box so that other kids could get them,” Lake said.
“That was inspiring to me. We could be so much more generous than we are. If people with next to nothing can be that generous, how easy is it for us to be generous,” he said.
Lake is convinced that Belmont students want to live lives of significance, and participating in Operation Christmas Child is a practical way to do just that.
Vasuta agrees that packing the boxes is important because it can make a significant impact on other people.
“It is a way to give to other people, especially since the Christmas season is all about giving,” she said. “This way, we can give to people we don’t even know but make a difference in their lives.”
For Lake, it’s a way to remind everyone that life is a gift and everyone should share their gifts
“How do I invest my life where it’ll make the biggest difference during my brief time on Earth?”
All completed boxes should be taken to the University Ministries office in the first floor of the Gabhart Center.