Around April, Cathy Wood of Riverhead starts scouring discount stores for dolls, crayons, kids T-shirts and more to send to children who might otherwise never even see those objects in their lives.
Ms. Wood and her husband Don have been participating in Operation Christmas Child, a subset of the Christian Humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, since 1998. Every year they pack shoeboxes, donated by Payless Shoe Source and other stores in Riverhead, to send to children in developing nations.
This year, they packed an estimated 1,200 boxes.
“‘We get items freely from friends and family,” Ms. Wood said. “We could not do it without all the people who want to help.”
Each box contains items such as a girl or boy toy, a stuffed animal, socks, a T-shirt, coloring books, crayons, pen and pencils, a spiral notebook, soap, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a comb, a toothbrush, toothpaste, lollipops and candy canes.
About 25 people helped load boxes at Ms. Wood’s Ackerly Street home Saturday to send to the organization which then distributes those boxes to kids in 100 countries. The boxes are dropped off at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue.
“This gives me a reason to live,” said Ms. Wood’s 86-year-old father Reg Peterson of East Marion.
Over the years Ms. Wood has received about 90 letters from children in countries like Sri Lanka and Ukraine, thanking them for the supplies. She noted the school supplies is what allows some children to receive a formal education as some schools require students to own their own supplies.
“When you get a letter from a child that says thank you so much for the tooth paste, you think to yourself, how can somebody thank you for tooth paste,” Ms. Wood said. “This has really made me look at the way I live totally differently.”
To learn more about the organization, visit Samaritanspurse.org.