A local charity that makes gift-filled shoe boxes for needy children overseas has reached a major milestone just in time for Christmas.
You could say life for Elena Hagemeier has come full circle. "Every time I give a shoebox, it's like deja vu. I was that kid sitting there thinking 'no one loves me,'" she said.
The 21-year-old got a gift-filled shoebox from Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child when she was 10 years old living in an orphanage in Russia. "I received that shoebox and realized there is someone who cares enough to pack a shoebox," she said.
Now she works as a volunteer with the organization and gets to give boxes to children in need overseas. "Seeing the faces of the kids, thinking its my turn to give to the kids who don't have that much," Hagemeier said.
The boxes are filled with personal hygiene items, school supplies, toys and candy. 12-year-old Evilyn Pinnow created a shoebox club and has made about 1,400 boxes over the past four years.
Pinnow will be the one to hand-deliver the charity's 100 millionth shoebox to a little girl in the Dominican Republic just in time for Christmas. "This is a great honor for me. I can't wait to see the look on her face when I give that box to her," Pinnow said. "This shoebox is a representation of all the children who got boxes, who will receive shoe boxes in the future, and all the volunteers who have ever packed shoeboxes."
The boxes, which have been shipped to more than 130 countries since 1993, mean more than just the goodies inside, according to Pinnow. "The thing they remember most is that they felt loved when they opened it up," she said.
If you'd like to make a box, you can do so online at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.