Stallings students give Christmas presents to kids in other countries
Like most kids, fifth grader Brittany Milligan had a list of presents she wanted for Christmas. The Stallings Elementary student thought about it long and hard, even enlisting her mom to come up with the best presents to include. A monster truck? Hmm maybe not. How about a drawing pad? Once the list was perfected, she and her mom went out shopping, picking up some of the items, wrapping them up and then gave them away.
“I wanted to make some kid’s Christmas special, because this might be the first present they ever received,” Milligan said. “I wanted them to be happy.”
Milligan was one of over 17 Stallings Elementary kids to pack up toys, clothes and supplies to send overseas for Operation Christmas Child. Stallings Elementary Instructional Assistant Cinda Gatrell came to the kids with the idea earlier this year, asking classes if they wanted to take part in helping another child across the globe. By the end of November, the kids had collected over 60 shoeboxes.
“I won’t take any of the credit for this,” Gatrell said. “All I did was put the idea to the kids. They’re the ones who picked up the ball and went with is.”
Gatrell works with the local Christmas Child operation, helping with collection bins on the western part of Union County. Three years ago when the school first opened, she went to officials and pitched the idea, as a way of making that first Christmas special, both for the school and also for kids in other countries. Now it’s become a tradition for the elementary school, with new students taking up the project each year and wanting to do it all on their own.
“Me and my sisters pretty much did it all by ourselves,” third grader Abby Palmountain said. “We each did one and picked out everything ourselves. I wanted to do this because they don’t have much stuff there and we have a lot of stuff here. I wanted another kid to have a good Christmas.”
Palmountain packed her shoebox with some needed stuff, like a toothbrush, after some suggestions from her mom. She also made sure though to stuff the box with candy, something everybody can appreciate, Palmountain said, even those packing the boxes.
“That was one of the best parts,” Palmountain said. “We had some candy leftover and mom let me take three handfuls, since I helped wrap the boxes.”
Operation Christmas Child is a global gift exchange, run by the nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse. At the beginning of each November, the company opens thousands of locations across the country, usually at schools and churches, to collect shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items and gifts. Most of the boxes also contain some type of Christian literature. Over the last 13 years, the organization estimates that it’s handed out over 69 milion boxes in 130 countries.
“It was kinda hard to figure out what to pack, because you don’t know what they like and don’t like,” Brittany’s younger sister, third grader Taylor Milligan said. “Me and my mom did it together. I put notebooks, pens, puzzles, just stuff they can do activities with.”
Fourth grader Michael Kelly decided he wanted to tackle more than just one, building two boxes by himself.
“I put some games and stuff in there, so they would have opportunities to play,” Kelly said. “And I put clothes in there. I got stuff from stores.”
Fellow fourth grader Mark Willis had a simple way to narrow his choices down.
“I just thought about what I’d want to play with, so I put a little monster truck in there, stuff that boys would like,” Willis said.
The boxes were packed up just before Thanksgiving, then turned over to the local Operation Christmas Child distribution center. In a few weeks, they’ll be flying over the country, right before Santa makes his own international trip.
“We’ve been learning about kids in places where the storms hit, that have been through a lot,” Palmountain said. “They should have Christmas too.”