JOLIET – Joliet residents have annually been part of an international Christmas project called Operation Christmas Child, which has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 146 million children in need since 1993.
One such shoebox gift reached Jaki Steward in Guatemala when she was a young girl. Steward now is visiting Joliet residents to share directly how the simple gift had a life-changing effect.
Steward, hosted by the local project of Operation Christmas Child, will share her story at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Our Savior Lutheran Church. Her desire is to encourage residents, as they kick off the upcoming collection season, to fill more than 24,000 shoeboxes with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items – contributing to the global project goal of reaching
12 million children.
Steward was left at an orphanage in Guatemala by her young mother when she was only a few months old. Sharing a room with 12 other girls, she learned to protect the few possessions she had.
One December, when Steward was 5 years old, she received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. Cuddling the stuffed animal she received in her shoebox, Jaki felt special, loved and cared for. She had something to call her own. One year later, she was adopted into a family in the U.S. She started packing shoeboxes to share the love of Jesus with other children like herself.
During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, Nov. 13 to 20, Joliet residents can drop off gift-filled shoeboxes at multiple locations across Illinois. For information on how to participate, visit