Women of Troy’s Panhellenic sororities joined together to collect over 500 boxes for Operation Christmas Child through the Samaritan’s Purse organization.
Members of Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Delta, Chi Omega and Phi Mu came together to pack and prepare boxes for children overseas on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Tina Bokenfohr, an exercise science major from Enterprise and member of Alpha Gamma Delta, led the event with Sarah Stewart, a first-semester nursing student from Dothan and another sister of Alpha Gam, aiming to re-create the same event, which was held the year before.
“Sarah Stewart and I are basically the chairs for Panhellenic Operation Christmas Child. We came up with the total amount of boxes we wanted to pack (500), then decided what items we wanted in the boxes and split the items among the sororities,” Bokenfohr said.
Operation Christmas Child is a program led by Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organization.
According to its website, it provides aid to those in need while spreading the Christian gospel. The organization gets its name from one of Jesus’ parables, the Good Samaritan; its main message is “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to Bokenfohr, the event was started after Stewart mentioned the idea from her experience as a sister of Alpha Gam at the University of Alabama chapter.
“Last year turned out really great, so we decided to do it again,” Bokenfohr said. “We also wanted to have more Panhellenic events because I feel like we don’t do necessarily enough altogether.”
Haley Dees, a junior exercise science major from Montgomery and sister of Kappa Delta, coordinated for her organization.
“I’ve always done it (help with Operation Christmas Child) at my church in Montgomery,” Dees said. “Before Panhellenic decided to have a social for all the sororities to participate, I headed it up for Kappa Delta.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and Operation Christmas Child was a great opportunity for me to do so.”
Churches, groups, organizations and individuals fill shoeboxes with items the children both want and need such as toys, school supplies, personal items or small gifts. The boxes also often include a booklet of Bible stories in the child’s native language.
Other recommended items from the website include school supplies, non-liquid hygiene items, crafts, coloring books and a personal note from the person or family packing the box.
Used items, war-related items, weapons, chocolate, old candy, liquids and medication are not to be included in the boxes.
They can be prepared based on the gender and age of the child with age groups ranging from 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14.
Boxes are then sent to collection points, which are usually churches in the area.
According to the organization’s website, collection is usually the third week of November. Before shipping, the boxes are inspected and prepped for shipping internationally. Almost all of those working in shipping facilities are volunteers. Every hour, work is halted for the volunteers to pray over the boxes and the children who will receive them.
The organization reaches over 100 countries with the boxes. Pastors host box distributions in areas where children may not have heard the gospel or in orphanages and other at-risk areas.
Samaritan’s Purse also performs follow-ups with the areas the boxes are sent to with Bible lessons and aid to communities. As of April 2015, over 124 million boxes have been distributed.
Barbara Patterson, director of student involvement, said that this is an opportunity for sororities to be actively involved in serving others.
“I think it’s important for the sororities to always be doing something for the community,” Patterson said. “That is a part of the mission statement of all sororities to be active in community service.
“This is one that many sorority women participate in their home churches, so it’s a great way to continue that here at the university.”
Dees also wanted to be involved with the event because of its impact on others.
“Knowing that I, as well as all of Panhellenic, was able to buy items and pack boxes for children in other countries that never get to experience Christmas like we do, it’s a humbling experience because you put yourself and your needs aside to do something special for someone else,” Dees said.