WOODLAND – For her 14th birthday, Mattie Shirey of Woodland doesn’t wish for any gifts.
Instead, she has a special mission: to spread hope, joy and love to children and their families through the Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation Christmas Child.
The project collects shoebox gifts filled with school supplies, personal hygiene items and fun toys, and currently delivers them to children in over 100 countries.
From donkeys, elephants and camels to motorcycles, trucks and canoes, volunteers transport these precious gifts “to the ends of the earth.”
For many children, it is their very first gift and expresses God’s love for them. In 2023, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 11 million children.
And Mattie—who comes from a family of year-round shoebox packers—was cast a vision of her smaller part in that Samaritan’s Purse goal as a social media video played one Sunday in church.
It showed a family of over 30 orphaned children at Yahweh Children Ministries in Kampala, Uganda passionately and vibrantly singing of the “Goodness of God.”
They had no amplified microphones—just plastic bottles. They had no instruments—just stick guitars and plastic buckets they turned upside down for drums.
“They could really sing,” Mattie expressed, “but they had no instruments and so I knew my shoeboxes should have a musical focus.”
And, because she “doesn’t need anything” with more than a decade’s worth of blessings, it became the desire of her heart to bless other children around the world in this very special way for her birthday.
In addition to school supplies, personal hygiene items and fun toys, Mattie suggests small musical instruments like recorders, harmonicas, tambourines, kazoos and maracas.
So much joy! In Namibia, this child found a toy recorder in their shoebox gift. (Photo is courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse)
Since Mattie’s birthday falls in December after National Collection Week (Nov. 13-20), she will collect items now through October to allow time for packing and delivery to a local drop-off site.
To make giving simple, she’s created an Amazon birthday gift list, which can be found by selecting “Account & Lists” in Amazon’s top navigation.
Select “Find a List or Registry” and enter her name, “Mattie Shirey,” then select “Gift List” from the drop-down menu and click “search.” In the search results, click on her name to access the list.
Any gifts will be shipped directly to Mattie.
Mattie will be an eighth-grade student at Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School in 2023-24. She attends The Vine Free Methodist Church, Clearfield, where she participates in junior church.
“I just love packing shoebox gifts,” she expressed, “and would love the help of my whole community this collection season.”
About Operation Christmas Child
Across the United States, Operation Christmas Child collected over 9.3 million shoebox gifts in 2022. Combined with those collected from partnering countries, it’s now sending nearly 10.6 million shoebox gifts to children worldwide.
Through three decades of generous donors, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 209 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 170 countries and territories since 1993.
This year, the ministry delivered its milestone 200 millionth shoebox, which was packed on a country-wide tour and then hand-delivered to a young girl in war-torn Ukraine in January.
Since 2009, more than 35.4 million children have participated in the 12-lesson discipleship course, The Greatest Journey.
More than 24.9 million children have graduated from this program with over 17.5 million boys and girls making decisions for Christ.
In 2023, Samaritan’s Purse also marks the 50 millionth child discipled through The Greatest Journey and previously The Mailbox Club.
This year, shoeboxes from western and central Pennsylvania are reaching children in places like Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Ukraine, Malawi, South Africa and the Philippines.