Students combine education with charity in Operation Christmas Child

A class of communication studies students at Fort Hays State University have spent the semester practicing business and professional speaking skills by preparing briefings to get various organizations involved with Operation Christmas Child.

OCC is a project part of Samaritan's Purse, an international organization that provides physical and spiritual relief. The project collects shoebox-sized containers stuffed with basic necessities and toys then delivers them to children in need.

"I asked Catholic Disciples to partner up and split the entire cost of the box including shipping," said Macy Becker, Garden Plain sophomore.

Becker expected a donation of only five or six boxes but now has more than 10, she said.

Nathan Briar, Newton senior and former FHSU baseball player, prepared his briefing to collect old practice baseballs. He said that with each ball donated he would donate a pack of baseball cards.

"If I can't get the balls donated, I will still donate packs of baseball cards," said Briar.

Once Cory Ellis, Berthoud, Colo., junior and FHSU football wide receiver, prepared his briefing, the football team donated the shoeboxes from their football cleats.

Dr. Connie Eigenmann, associate professor of communication studies at FHSU, got the business and professional speaking class involved with the OCC seven years ago when she taught it. She doesn't teach it this semester, but she spoke to the current class and passed out rolls of wrapping paper to get the students started.

Her first year, she gathered four boxes. At one point this year, she had 600 shoeboxes in her living room. The boxes were loaded into pickup trucks as volunteers passed them out the door like "a bucket relay to put out a fire," said Eigenmann.

Eigenmann's home has been transformed into something similar to Santa's workshop. There is a room to sew little dresses for girls and another to grind soap bars for all. She also has a work area for packaging and wrapping all the gifts.

Samaritan's Purse has collected and delivered more than 113 million boxes to more than 150 countries since 1993, according to its website.

Last year, Hays collected more than 4,000. The goal for Hays this year is 23,000, which is the projected population of Hays by December, said Eigenmann. She has faith that Hays can provide a box to "represent every man, woman and child in Hays."

Once boxes in Hays are ready, they go to "the hub," which is Messiah Lutheran of Hays. From the hub, they go to Denver for inspection. After inspection, the boxes go to Mexico. Once all the orders are filled in Mexico, the boxes go to other countries. Donors can purchase barcodes online to track were their boxes have gone, said Eigenmann.

"Time after time these go to the right person," said Eigenmann.

Information on donating to OCC can be found at If boxes are packed, they can be dropped off at Messiah Lutheran, 2000 Main, during collection week Nov. 17 through Nov. 24.

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