21 November, 2016
The TRIO of Success Club, a Student Support Services organization at Gadsden State Community College, spearheaded a drive to benefit Samaritan’s Purse International’s Operation Christmas Child. The project uses gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.
“Beginning in October, club members placed collection boxes around campus for students and faculty to donate a variety of items to go in the shoeboxes,” said Christine Foster-Cates, TRIO Club Advisor. “The shoeboxes are then sent to less fortunate children around the world.”
On Nov. 14, TRIO hosted a party to pack and organize the shoeboxes so they could send them in time for them to arrive before the holiday season begins.
“We hope the children enjoy these gifts as much as we loved gathering items for them,” said Haleigh Roberson, a club member.
Caleb Lloyd, also a member of the Trio of Success Club, packed several boxes with a washcloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and school supplies as well as a special treat, such as a puzzle.
“It feels more like Christmas when you spread joy to others,” he said.
One Gadsden State graduate knows the joy an Operation Christmas Child shoebox brings at Christmas time. Natali Holt was 8 years old when the shoeboxes arrived at a rural church her father pastored in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She said the congregation all came together to watch the children open their shoeboxes.
“This was very exciting for an 8-year-old,” she said. “It’s a wonderful memory.”
Holt, now 31 and a tutor at Gadsden State, remembers the boxes having temporary tattoos that said “I love Jesus” or “Jesus loves you.” To her, this was a Christian impression of the culture in the United States; one of being less materialistic.
“The only other impressions I had were what I saw in the movies, music and art,” she said.
For Holt and the children around her, the shoeboxes filled with goodies served as a compassionate outreach to share the story of Jesus. She remembers the letters that were sent in the boxes.
“I was so impressed that people would take the time to write the letter and to wrap each box with wrapping paper,” she said. “That was really cool.”
Holt has come a long way since celebrating Christmas in the rural Bolivian church. She came to the U.S. a decade ago to further her education and to learn English. She graduated from Gadsden State in 2011 with an associate degree in General Studies before earning a bachelor’s degree in Education from Jacksonville State University. Her sister, Mariela Rios-Balboa has joined her in Gadsden to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to come to the U.S. and to attend Gadsden State,” Holt said. “It’s also a joy to be able to contribute to Operation Christmas Child. This project is a powerful way to give a simple gift of joy.”
Foster-Cates, also an academic advisor at Gadsden State, is pleased with the participation from the Trio of Success Club members for this meaningful project.
“The students took time out of their busy schedules and money out of their personal budgets to complete a selfless act this holiday season,” she said. “What they have done will have an international impact and leave a lasting impression on the hearts of children.” The Gadsden State community donations helped the students fill 45 boxes.