A whole lot of love can fit in a shoebox.

Filling shoeboxes with toys and love has long been a tradition for YMCA member Sara Lightner and her family. Slightly more than 20 years to be exact.

“When my kids were little, we’d pack shoeboxes and took them to church, and they were sent overseas to children,” Lightner said. “That’s how we first heard of Operation Christmas Child.”

Lightner’s involvement with Operation Christmas Child started with her family, but she eventually took on a bigger role within the ministry.

“Over the years, I started packing more boxes, and then I started helping at churches where they were collecting a large amount of boxes,” Lightner said. “I went to a meeting for Operation Christmas Child, and they invited us to be year-round volunteers.”

Part of Lightner’s role involves spreading the word in the community about the shoebox drive. One way Lightner achieves this goal is by putting Operation Christmas Child boxes and materials in the YMCA lobby.

Those wanting to get involved can grab a shoebox from the YMCA or lobby, or use any other shoe box. The recommendation is to put one item in the box – such as a deflated soccer ball with a pump or a doll – that creates a “Wow!” factor when a child opens his or her box.

“When the child opens the box, you want the ‘Wow’ item to be the thing that catches their eye,” Lightner said.

Participants can choose whether they would like to pack a box for a boy or a girl, and participants can also choose between one of the three age ranges; ages 2-4, ages 5-9 or ages 10-14.

Lightner recommends school supplies, hygiene items and other smaller toys as other things that can go in the box.

The boxes should then be taken  to a drop-off site between Nov. 12 and Nov. 19. Lightner said the closest box drop-off location in the Staunton area is Calvary Baptist Church.

“Each shoebox that is sent is a chance to show God’s love to child in need,” Lightner said. “It’s a tangible way to show God’s love to them.”

Watch Lightner’s video about Operation Christmas Child here.

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