Moffat County Locals: Julie Grobe helps children in need by bringing Operation Christmas Child to Craig
- Grab a shoebox or plastic tub to fill with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for girls and boys appropriate to one of three age groups — ages 2 to 4, ages 5 to 9, or ages 10 to 14). • Suggested gifts include pens, pencils, crayons, writing pads, coloring books, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, jump ropes, a toothbrush, comb, t-shirts, socks and a personal note. • Buy sale items in bulk to affordably prepare and give more than one shoebox. • Do not send used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures, food, candy, liquids, lotions, toothpaste, medications, vitamins, breakable items, or aerosol cans. • Create a team to help assemble a larger number of boxes. • Boxes should include $9 for shipping and postage. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through "Follow Your Box" and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.
A shoebox seems a small thing, but in the hands of caring Christians, humble shoeboxes have become gifts with a global impact.
Operation Christmas Child was started in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse to provide underprivileged children in about 45 of the world’s poorest counties with shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts and the story of Christ’s love, said Craig-area Drop-off Location Team Leader Julie Grobe.
Grobe has witnessed that impact directly by meeting “full circle speakers” — people who received boxes as children and now, as adults, give boxes.
She recalls meeting a man who received a box when he was a child living in Ukraine.
“He said that everything was grey, it’s a grey life. He remembered the colors and what was in his box, such as little cars and a toothbrush. These simple things made his life brighter,” Grobe said.
In 2017, Samaritan’s Purse projected that more than 150,000 volunteers, including families, churches and other groups, would join forces to contribute to the largest Christmas project of its kind in an attempt to reach 12 million children.
“They go to the ends of the earth, impacting the whole world for the better,” Grobe said.
She and her crew of family, friends and volunteers collected a little less than 450 boxes from community members and 11 churches in Hayden, Craig and Maybell.
While short of this year’s 500-box goal, numbers were up from the nearly 415 boxes collected in 2016 and represent a substantial increase from the 15 boxes collected in Grobe’s first year — 1996.
Her work as a drop-off location team leader is a year-round, unpaid position, which requires her to spend at least five hours per month in training and work.
She’s recruited her family to help.
Her husband, Chuck, said he’s “just Julie’s driver.” Their daughter, Katie, has helped with the project since her return from college.
“I wasn’t around for the initial bit. When I moved back up here, she created an opportunity for people who didn’t have the time or the means to do a whole box to donate to a pool. I would go get the stuff and fill the boxes,” Katie recalled.
Katie has mastered packing the boxes full of usable items while still giving the children toys and opportunities for play.
“Every box is also a gospel opportunity,” Julie said.
And often, recipients use everything given, including the box, to improve their lives.
“It’s an incredible experience to put together something for someone I might never meet. I try to put together something that someone will really enjoy. There is something exciting and challenging about it,” Katie said.
After 21 years of effort led by the Grobe’s, generations of people in Craig now give shoebox gifts.
“I really enjoy the opportunity of talking with people who do this with their kids and grandkids,” Julie said.
The Grobes start preparing for the next year’s Operation Christmas Child soon after the current year’s collection is done, when merchants begin offering holiday sales. This allows them to buy items in bulk to create nearly 100 boxes each year.
“We think about it all the time. Every month, I try to think of another thing to collect for,” Julie said. “We really have put our hearts into it.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.