Covenant Village of Florida, in Plantation, and John Knox Village, in Pompano Beach, are two senior communities that have been participating in packing shoeboxes for many years. Covenant Village partners with Plantation Community Church and packs over 200 boxes each year. This year, they have a goal of 500 boxes. John Knox Village normally packs over 200 boxes as well, and this year residents and staff have the goal of 350 gift filled boxes.
Senior Rosalba Bravo and her cousin Fanny Hernandez participate in their homes and are dedicated to the project year-round. Rosalba spends all of her free time making tote bags, zipper pencil pouches out of donated fabric and small head bows. In the past she also wrapped hundreds and hundreds of shoe boxes. Fanny compliments her work by making beaded bracelets that match the head-bows.
Social interactions with family, friends, neighbors and chosen peer groups can be valuable for seniors to maintain health. And participating in Operation Christmas Child encourages gathering with other seniors to craft, go on a shopping field trip, and pack boxes, which allows seniors to relate and connect. It can provide an opportunity to work intergenerational with school groups or scout troops to create items that will go into the boxes.
Packing Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes has been called a “mission trip in a box.” Since living with a meaning and purpose in life, guided by personal values, is key to feelings of well-being, these project can create the connection to the larger world seniors need. Participating in an OCC project allows seniors to not only minister to children around the world as packing partners, but also to serve as prayer “warriors” for these same children and their families. Group and individual faith-based activities like these can create opportunities for spiritual growth.
Feelings are the lens through which people view the world, and the ability to be aware of and direct one’s feelings helps to create balance in life. Research now shows that loneliness — the unpleasant feeling of emptiness or desolation — can be especially debilitating to older adults and may predict serious health problems and even death. Keeping seniors engaged and thriving with purpose and something to look forward to, can assist in curtailing this.
Engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities is a proven approach to keeping minds alert and interested. Seniors can engage themselves intellectually by researching the countries where boxes have been delivered; developing new ideas for items to make, or finding new ways to recycle and reuse.
Volunteer work that utilizes a person’s skills while providing personal satisfaction is valuable for society as well as the individual. Woodworking, knitting, painting, and volunteering at your local OCC Collection Center can all provide seniors with the opportunity to contribute and enrich their sense of purpose as they age. There are numerous ways for individuals to use their skills for the benefit of those in need.
What can you do?
Pair staff with senior residents to make gift items or to write notes, organize a packing event where seniors can fill a shoebox or partner with local churches. You can encourage engagement by explaining to residents how their boxes fit into the over-all goals of the local Area team for Operation Christmas Child and how their contribution makes a difference.
Free Resources and more information are available at:www.samaritanspurse.org. Explore new shoebox ideas on Facebook.com/OCC shoeboxes and Pinterest: @OCC_shoeboxes
Or contact Shelley Mihalko at firstname.lastname@example.org.