As the holiday season approaches an intrinsic need to help out those who are less fortunate seems to resonate with local residents including Katelyn Wilderdyke, 17 of Adel.
Wilderdyke has been a part of Operation Christmas Child, a ministry devoted to giving gift-filled shoe boxes to more than 8.5 million children living in over 130 countries, for over a decade.
Although she didn’t understand the severity of other children’s situations when she first started packing shoe boxes, she grew to realize that children do benefit from a single box. "The families, groups, and individuals who pack boxes for OCC (Operation Christmas Child) can make a positive difference in the lives of these children-simply by filling a shoebox with basic items (such as) school supplies, hygiene items, small toys, (and) candy," she said. "The best thing about this organization is that anyone can participate in it and donate his very own personally-filled box."
Gifts included in a box can range from toys, school supplies, candy, and hygiene items.
Katelyn’s mother, Stefanie Wilderdyke, originally encouraged her daughter to join in the program and said her daughter’s passion to help those in need has increased over the years.
"I’m inspired by my daughter’s passion for giving to others," she said. "If anything, I think she has helped me grow in faith and becoming increasingly motivated in this ministry as well as in others. Katelyn encourages me to reach more and more people each year to teach them about Operation Christmas Child and encourage them to build a box.
"The more boxes we build, the more children are loved." The children receiving the boxes tend to live in severely destitute situations including severe poverty, have life-threatening diseases, or have experienced the loss of parents.
"It’s a simple project that helps people of all ages realize that there are others in the world who have nothing to call their own," Stefanie Wilderdyke said. "They don’t have the advantages that we do."
Those interested in dropping off a gift-filled box for a boy or girl ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14 or would would like to give a $7 monetary donation out to Samaritan’s Purse can visit the Adel United Methodist Church, 115 S. 10th and Prairie in Adel during Nov. 18-25. Hours are Monday through Friday (November 18-22) from 4-6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. until noon, Sunday, Nov. 24 from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., and Monday, Nov. 25 from 9-11 a.m.
The First Congressional Church in Stuart is also accepting donations the week of Nov. 18-22 from 5-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9-11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit Samaritan’s Purse at samaritanspurse.org/occ or Stefanie Wilderdyke, volunteer coordinator for Dallas County, at 515-993-1003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in giving boxes to the First Congressional Church in Stuart can contact Dianne at 866-742-5018.