Â Â Michelle Mandaro and her Family fill Shoeboxes with Holiday Gifts for Underprivileged Children
Â By Sally Deering
Not all shoeboxes are the same; some hold heels, some hold sneakers; while still others hold toothbrushes, combs, socks and a whole lot of love.
Since 1993, more than 100 million children have received shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child, a project from the Christian organization Samaritanâ€™s Purse (www.samaritanspurse.com) with more than 100,000 volunteers creating and distributing the shoeboxes Â filled with trinkets to put a smile on a childâ€™s face Christmas morning.
Operation Christmas Child brings shoeboxes filled with trinkets â€“ both the necessary and the fun kind â€“ to underprivileged children throughout the country. Participating for the fifth year are Michelle Mandaro â€“ owner of Ameliaâ€™s Bistro in Jersey City â€“ her 9 year-old son Alexander, and 7 year-old daughter Emilie.
â€œMy sister-in-law Fortune Mandaro has been doing it for 20 years,â€ Michelle Mandaro says.Â â€œThis is my fifth year doing it with my my children. Last year we created 54 shoeboxes and this year weâ€™re making 60. My kids love shopping for the boxes they love stuffing the boxes, they write letters to the children and they receive letters back.â€
Through local churches like the Christian Church of Bayonne, people are encouraged to take their old shoeboxes, wrap them in holiday paper and fill them with goodies. Volunteers who want to participate can pick pick a boy or girl in different age groups: 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14. Then, just fill a shoebox with age-appropriate new items. The cost to fill a shoebox can be anywhere from $12 and up.
â€œMost of the items can be inexpensive,â€ Mandaro says, â€œlike toothburshes, toothpaste, wash cloths, coloring books, pencils, school supplies. It means so much to the children and itâ€™s a great way of teaching your kids to give back and help children in need. My kids use part of their allowance. My son makes and sells bracelets and uses the money to make a couple of boxes. He gets a deep sense of satisfaction buying items with money that he earned himself.â€
Operation Christmas Child is a great way to teach children about empathy for others and helps them realize thereâ€™s more to life than video games, laptops and iPhones, Mandaro says.
â€œI think its very important for kids to learn to give back,â€ Mandaro says.Â â€œKids today have so much and too much of everything and its very important to know that there are children who donâ€™t even have the basics. It breaks my heart that weâ€™re putting toothbrushes and toothpaste in these boxes.â€
Mandaroâ€™s compassion for underprivileged children goes back to her childhood in Czechoslovakia.Â Mandaro remembers how difficult it was growing up â€“ kids didnâ€™t have much, not like kids today.
â€œI came from nothing,â€ Mandaro says. â€œNow I do what I can to help kids.â€
The program continues to expand, Mandaro says, and this is the first year Hudson is being represented. Years back, Mandaro would take her shoeboxes and deliver them to a church in Staten Island. Â All
â€œThis is the first year they will be collecting boxes in Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne at the Christian Church in Bayonne,â€ Mandaro says. â€œ Iâ€™m trying to get the word out.â€
If youâ€™d like to donate:
The Christian Church of Bayonne
133 W 24th St
For more info: (201) 208-7626