As you prepare for the holidays, some volunteers at Rockford's Temple Baptist Church hope you'll include a child living in poverty to your gift list.
Just 10 years ago, Valeriy Bianco's life looked much different. "I was born in Russia. After my mom passed away when I was around 6 then my dad went to jail shortly after that. I got to the orphanage after that," says Bianco.
A few years later, he became one of nearly 100 million children who've received a shoebox full of gifts and supplies from Operation Christmas Child.
"And the one thing that really stood out to me in the box was a small car toy," recalls Bianco.
It was the first gift he had ever been given.
Now living near Crystal Lake with his adoptive family, Bianco is still grateful for the person who packed that box.
"It really made a huge impact on me, it gave me something to look forward to, give me hope," he says.
Local Operation Christmas Child organizers hope they can give that gift to even more children, with a goal of collecting 10,000 boxes from the Greater Rockford Area.
"It is always amazing when you think about the way a simple toy, a simple t-shirt or anything that is stuffed into that box can alter a child's life," says Randa Noble, an Operation Christmas Child Representative. "I just read a story online this week where a child opened their box and they just jumped up and down and said 'somebody loves me."
Empty shoeboxes will be given to several local churches soon. Or you can always use one of your own. Full boxes can be dropped off at Temple Baptist Church from November 18th through the 25th.
After all the boxes are collected, they are sent to Minnesota, where they are loaded onto cargo ships and sent to nearly 100 countries. You can even track your box to see where it ends up.
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