Operation Christmas Child spreads cheer, love and hope

By By Lauren Manary / American Press

DERIDDER — For one little girl, a simple shoebox meant the ability to dream of a life of hope and without poverty.

Tatiana Woods, who spent much of her

childhood in a Russian orphanage, spoke at the War Memorial Civic Center

as a representative

of Operation Christmas Child.

The project, an initiative of evangelical Christian relief group Samaritan’s Purse, has garnered participation from thousands

who pack shoeboxes with toys, candy and hygienic products for needy children around the world.

When word spread around the orphanage about the arrival of gifts from abroad, Woods said she did not know how to feel.

“I didn’t know what a shoebox was for,” Woods said. “I didn’t know why you would get excited about a box because I had never

received a gift before. I really didn’t understand why everyone was so excited.”

Her favorite gifts out of the box? Her own toothbrush, when before she had to share with 20 other orphans, and a rainbow Slinky.

The next summer, Woods was asked to be a part of a camp in America and was paired with a host family. That family eventually

adopted her, and she now resides in Texas and will attend college next fall.

Because of that Christmas 10 years ago, Woods said she was able to dream of a better life and asked the audience to give too.

“Never underestimate how a simple gesture can impact a child’s life,” Woods said.

“Imagine, if you will: Yourself, your child or your grandchild never receiving a gift except from a stranger thousands of

miles away. I know it will touch a life, because it touched mine.”

Those wishing to donate can do so at the Civic Center or a participating church by Nov. 18.

Online: www.samaritanspurse.org.