OTTUMWA — Doug Schuck called Monday his “training year” for Operation Christmas Child. Thanks to volunteers, some of whom have years of experience, things went smoothly.
People were already hard at work retrieving shoeboxes from a trailer at noon, when the work was officially scheduled to begin. Within minutes two more pickup trucks pulled into the parking lot at Northgate Alliance Church, each pulling a trailer loaded with more boxes.
Operation Christmas Child has taken place annually for more than 25 years under the auspices of Samaritan’s Purse, and Northgate Alliance is the hub for this area. Roger and Marilyn Russ led the local effort for years. This year Schuck was at the helm.
The program asks donors for one “wow” item, a small toy like a doll or stuffed animal, and includes it in a box along with hygiene items and school supplies. Some basic clothing rounds out each box. The boxes are sent to agencies around the world for distribution.
“Right now, that truck will fill most of that trailer,” Schuck said, then turned slightly. “The semi will fill that trailer.”
The challenge each year is to help expand the program to help more children. Organizers think that goal will be met, but you don’t really know the final tallies until the boxes are ready to be shipped out.
People have a way of surprising you, though, as Schuck found out. A big part of his work was making sure there were enough people lined up to help keep things moving on Monday.
“I was trying to keep track of how many people had volunteered. About twice as many showed up as had signed up,” he said.
There were plenty of hands ready to help. And that was a big relief for Schuck. It’s his training year, after all.