Despite the fact that Memorial Day is barely over and the 4th of July is looming, it’s time to think about Christmas.
That’s about the time around 1,000 needy children around the world will be receiving gift boxes filled with clothing, a toothbrush and toys provided by people in Northeast Nebraska.
Kelly Asbury and her daughter, Becca, 14, are spearheading the project that took root last year during Grace Lutheran Church’s Vacation Bible School. The Rev. Chris Asbury, Kelly’s husband and Becca’s father, is associate pastor at the church.
“Last summer, we packed around 200 boxes as the mission outreach part of Grace’s VBS. Becca and I enjoyed it so much, we decided to pack even more,” Kelly Asbury said.
The duo put an announcement in area church bulletins and other publications and received enough items to pack 959 boxes, which were shipped overseas by the Orphan Grain Train.
This year, they hope to pack at least 1,000 boxes that will contain a T-shirt, socks, underwear, coloring book, stickers, crayons, toothbrush, ball, stuffed animal and a toy.
That’s a lot of stuff to fit into a box that’s approximately 7 by 13 by 5 inches.
“If we can fit it into the box, we’ll take it,” Asbury said. “That’s the only constraint.”
The boxes are for children ages 2 to 12, and each item is specific to the child’s age and gender, Asbury said.
While the socks, underwear, toothbrush and crayons have to be new, the T-shirts and toys can be gently used, she said.
Last year, they received some interesting items, including a Barbie doll collection complete with homemade clothing and a stuffed animal collection.
They used the monetary donations they received to buy items they needed. Doing so allowed them to take advantage of sales and to buy in bulk, they said. They keep track of the donations on a spread sheet.
If possible, items that have lots of pieces, such as boxes of Legos, are divided so more children will receive them. In some cases, they will put a few of the pieces together so the children will know what to do with them. After all, many of the boxes will be given to children who have never seen a Lego or a crayon.
Their plan to collect items until the end of July and pack boxes in August so the boxes can be shipped in September.
When it’s time to pack, they will enlist the aid of volunteers, including the rest of the Asbury children — Noah, 11, Megan, 9, Ashley, 5, and Hannah, 3. Other volunteers are welcome.
Last year, quite a few people from area churches helped pack boxes, Asbury said.
In September, the boxes will be loaded into Orphan Grain Train shipments being sent around the world.
“The children around the world who will receive these boxes rarely receive any gifts. Some do not own anything other than the clothes on their back,” she said.