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Donations overflow for shoebox project

POULSBO — They may be little boxes, but as a group they added up to a big surprise for Operation Christmas Child organizers this year.

Poulsbo, Kitsap County and Olympic Peninsula communities responded to the appeal for shoeboxes filled with holiday treats by showing up to the Christ Memorial parking lot en masse to donate last week. The boxes, filled with toys, candy, art supplies and other gifts, will be headed to destinations around the world this holiday season to become Christmas gifts for needy children.

Between Nov. 18 and 25, collection site volunteers had packed 206 shipping cartons with a total of 3,517 shoeboxes. Last year, the project netted 126 cartons for a total of about 2,000 shoeboxes.

The donations were so overwhelming that on Nov. 22, with three days to go, the collection site ran out of cartons and had to wait for a new shipment Saturday morning.

“It’s incredible,” said volunteer Jasmine Henry, 14, who has worked locally with Operation Christmas Child since 1996.

“This is what we call a hallelujah problem,” said mother Tamara Henry with a big smile as she began to close down shop Friday.

The donation site was manned by a number of local youngsters from the North Kitsap area and their parents. They braved whatever the Mother Nature had in store for them to receive the presents, whether they came as a single box donated by a local family, or many more from a local group.

One of the most miraculous donations came at the end of one shift when a van pulled up, literally filled to the brim with boxes. It was an early Christmas present from a group of folks at Subase Bangor.

“It was pretty incredible,” remembered three-year volunteer Steven Gilman, 15, with excitement still in his eyes. “I’ve never seen so many boxes in one car.”

And even though it was the volunteers who put their time and energy into making the donation station work, they humbly gave the credit to community members who were so generous.

“We’d really just like to thank the people of the county and peninsula,” said mother Cindy Gilman after tallying the final count. “There were just some incredible people who participated and who overcame some pretty big obstacles to participate.”

And for the youngsters who volunteered, among them homeschoolers, public schoolers and Christian schoolers, Jasmine Henry said being part of this project will make their own Christmases much sweeter knowing they brightened the season for kids just like them.

“All of the work is worth it because each box is a Christmas for one child who might not have a Christmas otherwise,” she explained.

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