By Tiffany Green-Oldacre
Special to The Times
For the Byrams family, collecting items to fill shoeboxes full of goodies at Christmas time, is a family affair.
Mom, Stephanie Byrams, heads up the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Ministry at her church in Fairview, Spring Arbor Baptist. "I enjoy helping in the mission field,” she said.
The shoebox ministry is a way to help needy children around the world receive a small gift at Christmas.
When Stephanie was asked to help head up collections at her church, without hesitation she accepted. It is a way her entire family can be involved in a mission project together.
"My children enjoy it," she said. "We come up to the church in the evenings and sort the boxes. We enjoy doing it together as a family. It's our family’s way of getting involved in missions."
Sierra Byrams, Stephanie’s 10-year-old daughter, smiles just knowing she is able to help a needy child at Christmas.
"I like to help kids around the world," Sierra said. "I want to know every child gets a gift."
Along with Stephanie, Regina Roat helps gather items for the shoeboxes. Roat has been involved in the ministry for more than 10 years.
"I like to think, that's something I can do to help and impact others," Roat said.
Shoeboxes are filled with simple items such as school supplies, hygiene items and books and small toys.
The entire congregation at Spring Arbor gets involved with packing the shoebox.
"It started with families doing them, then we decided to make it a church-wide event," Roat said.
The church family collects items throughout the year, each month gathering different items to fill the boxes.
"We have increased the number of boxes each year."
The children even get involved by donating all the offering collected during the summer Vacation Bible School to Operation Christmas Child.
"We use the offering collected during VBS towards the postage for the boxes," Roat said.
During Bible school, the children also make items to go in the boxes.
"We get the children very involved in the shoebox ministry," she said.
Roat has no plans of slowing down.
"I can't necessarily go to another country to do mission work, but I can do this. This is an easy way to be involved in mission work."
Most of the children that receive a shoebox for Christmas have never before received a gift for Christmas. That alone is motivation for Roat to do all she can to help.
"Just imagining the kids may have never received a gift makes me happy I can do something. I love putting art supplies in the boxes. These are things we take for granted, but this may be the only time these children ever get something like this."
Last year, Spring Arbor’s congregation of about 200 collected 76 boxes.
"We increase every year and we are really hoping for 100 boxes this year."
In November, the church will have a chili supper and packing party, when church members will meet and finish packing all the boxes, and have them ready to ship.
For more information on the shoebox ministry, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.