Christmas Giving Is International For Chandler Couple The Chandler Arizonan

Christmas Giving Is International For Chandler Couple

Christmas Giving Is International For Chandler Couple
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By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

A Chandler married couple committed to their church is mobilizing other volunteers to pack and send shoeboxes packed with everyday items and toys to brighten the lives of children and teens around the world.

Linda and Wendell Hollinshead are the collection coordinators for Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child at the church they attend, First Baptist Church, Chandler at 3405 S. Arizona Ave.

Operation Christmas Child is an international ministry in which shoebox-shaped and styled boxes with hygiene items, stuffed animals, coloring books, toys, clothes and other gifts are mailed to children in need in more than 150 countries and territories.

Along with the gifts, the youths who receive them also receive a gospel booklet translated into their language and 12 weeks of religious instruction followed by the gift of Bibles.

The Hollinsheads aim to fill, along with their volunteer crew at the church, 3,000 boxes to send around the world this season. Last year, they filled 2,300 boxes. The boxes the Chandler church members fill will go to children in Peru, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mongolia, Malaysia and other countries.

Besides packing items in the numerous shoeboxes, church members donate the contents of them.

“I’ve got a group of volunteers I’ve been working with nine or 10 years,” Linda Hollinshead said. “They love volunteering. They have their specific jobs. It’s a pretty well-oiled machine.

“I think it’s important to support them because many of these children don’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel message. That gives them an opportunity to hear the gospel message. They only receive one shoebox in their life, so it’s pretty impacting when they do receive that.”

She said she heard about a little boy who got a doll in his shoebox last year, and he gave it to his younger sister as “all she wanted was a doll.”

Some of the children live in orphanages and 25 of them share one toothbrush, so receiving their own toothbrushes is a big deal, the Hollinsheads said. Volunteers around the world pack boxes for the children.

About 50 volunteers, including women, men and children, at the Chandler church work on Operation Christmas Child.

Some of the ladies sew dresses they make out of pillowcases and fabric and some made 750 pencil cases, which the volunteers put school supplies in. Ladies in one church group were planning to pack 500 boxes and children to fill 100 boxes, then another group of ladies planned to fill another 100 boxes.

A men’s packing party was scheduled prior to football season starting. The Chandler church volunteers pack items in green and red boxes with pictures of children on them provided by Samaritan’s Purse.

They work in an assembly line fashion, with some volunteers checking to make sure everything donated can be sent to the children. Volunteers are not allowed to send any Army-related things like fake guns or shampoo or other liquids. Anything that can’t be shipped to the youths through the shoebox program is donated to other ministries that can use it.

Wendell said when he and Linda went to a convention in Florida, they had a chance to meet missionaries from other countries and some of the children who had received the shoeboxes.

“When you meet one of those children, the glee on their faces, that sparkle on their face, doesn’t leave,” he said.

He and Linda said one child who received a box now lives in Chandler with her adopted family, and she said she loved a Santa Claus Christmas tree ornament she received. The girl had said in the orphanage where she had lived, the children would get 30 minutes a month to play with the toys in their shoeboxes.

Missionaries who work “on the other side of” the shoeboxes in the countries where the children live hand out the boxes and teach the youths the basics about God and the gospel.

Volunteers tailor boxes to different genders and ages. Boys and girls ages 2 to 4, boys and girls ages 5 to 9 and boys and girls ages 10 to 14 receive items sorted for their suspected preferences. Older boys get tools and girls often get jewelry, for example.

“We always have packing parties, where people join us at the church,” Linda said. “Wendell and I do a lot of coordinating, keeping things organized.”

Avid volunteers at their church, Linda, a retired nurse and retired home decorating company employee, and Wendell, a retired construction industry salesman, understand what it is like going through hard times.

Linda moved to many different foster homes as a child, then was raised by her father. Wendell is the oldest of seven boys, and money was tight for his family. Wendell and Linda are parents to two sons and grandparents to three youths, and they have been going to the Chandler church since 1998.

Chandler resident Robin Earle, the area coordinator for the South Mountain Team for Operation Christmas Child and a year-round volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse, praised Linda and Wendell for their extensive volunteer work.

“The Hollinsheads are extraordinary leaders inspiring many from their church and the surrounding community to pack shoebox gifts for needy children around the world,” Earle said.

“Each gift contains items a child would find valuable – small toys, school supplies and toiletries (excluding liquids, toothpaste and candy). First Baptist Chandler has literally exploded with shoebox gifts of love, from giving a few hundred boxes seven years ago to an amazing goal of reaching 3,000 children in 2018,” she added, noting:

“The pastoral staff, along with their church community, is incredibly supportive of the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. It’s contagious as more and more people get involved. The Hollinsheads’ tireless work, team spirit and energy inspires others to give from the heart to children, use their talents for the project and volunteer many hours to enrich the lives of thousands of children. Each box brings a gift of joy and the promise of God’s love for children in over 100 countries.”

Linda and Wendell hope to have their packing of the shoeboxes done by Nov. 19. Then they will head to California to prepare the shoeboxes with other volunteers for mailing in a warehouse through an effort organized through Samaritan’s Purse.

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization offering spiritual and physical help to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, the organization has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries and territories.

Anyone interested in helping to pack the shoeboxes may reach Linda at

602-509-3476.

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