While Miriam Garcia, of Salt Lake City, was living in Mexico City as a young girl, she received a special shoe box filled with goodies from a girl in the United States.
The shoe box was part of the largest Christmas project in the world, known as Operation Christmas Child, headed by Samaritan's Purse, an internationally known charity.
"I was just so happy to get something, especially from another country," said Garcia. "Even though they were just little things, they were so special to my little brother and I."
At the time she received the box from the pastor of a local church, her dad was unemployed and her family was struggling with finances.
When she moved to Utah a few years ago on a work visa, she was surprised when she walked into the Calvary Chapel in Salt Lake City near Christmastime to see shoe boxes similar to the one she had received all those years ago.
"I was excited to fill my first shoe box last year, because I knew that people really do get these boxes," said Garcia.
Operation Christmas Child involves more than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, who hand-deliver about 8 million shoe box gifts to hurting kids around the world. This year, the focus will be on the children in Haiti as well as children in 100 other countries.
Last year, more than 11,000 boxes were collected in Northern Utah. The organization hopes to collect 12,500 this year. Even though that seems like a lot of boxes, it only makes a dent for kids needing help throughout the world.
Filled shoe boxes can be dropped off at three Top of Utah churches between today and Sunday.
For more information on how to prepare a box, visit
Boxes can be filled with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items and a personal note with a photo.
Alison Long, the area coordinator for the project has seen the impact of what the boxes do for the children who receive them. A few years ago, she volunteered to help distribute boxes in Jamaica, where citizens had been struggling with large gang wars.
When she walked into the school to help distribute shoe boxes, the first thing she encountered were the two armed guards keeping the children safe.
"When we got past the resort, I realized the reality of a third-world country where children live in slums," said Long. "We don't comprehend in the states that something so small could make such a drastic difference."
Simple things like a pair of flip flops because they didn't have any shoes, school supplies so they could finally get some school work done, and a toothbrush one family was sharing because they didn't have any, make a difference said Long.
"Personally, I get a little frustrated with American consumerism because for kids in these third-world countries, these boxes may be the only gift they ever get," said Long.
Operation Christmas Child is only one of many service projects these local churches participate in, but it is unique because it extends beyond the borders of Davis County, helping children in other countries who are crying out for help.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 801-264-9999 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.
leave a box
From today through Sunday, shoe boxes filled with presents and goodies may be dropped off at the following locations as part of Operation Christmas Child:
First Southern Baptist Church
696 N. 400 East, Bountiful
Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. -3 p.m.
Also Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Community United Methodist Church
163 W. 4800 South, Ogden
Monday and Tuesday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday - Friday, noon to 6 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Calvary Chapel Wasatch Front
564 S. 800 East, Clearfield
Monday, noon to 2 p.m.
Tuesday, 9 a.m. - noon
Wednesday - Friday, noon to 7 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.