WWII Veteran Brings Christmas to Thousands of Needy Kids

84-year-old packs shoe box gifts through Operation Christmas Child

EAST MARION, N.Y. (The DeMoss Group)—Combining ingenuity and more energy than most people half his age, 84-year-old World War II Purple Heart recipient Reggie Peterson plans this year to pack shoe boxes full of gifts for thousands of children in need.

“Doing this project just lifts me up and gives me energy,” said Peterson, who has participated in Operation Christmas Child for 11 years. “I love people, and I have a special place in my heart for kids. I was in Germany during World War II and saw a lot of kids with nothing.  It really had an impact on me and made me want to do things to help them.”

When Peterson discovered Operation Christmas Child, he knew he had found a great way to make a difference in children’s lives.  Through Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project, people across the country pack shoe boxes with toys, school supplies, necessity items and handwritten notes of encouragement.  This year these simple shoe box gifts will be hand-delivered to more than 8 million children around the world who are suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, poverty and famine.

But Peterson did not want to pack just one shoe box.  He wanted to pack hundreds—a number that has now grown into thousands.  With the help of his daughter, Cathy Wood, Peterson and his family have now packed more than 7,000 shoe box gifts.
 
When we load up trucks and bring the shoe box gifts to the collection center each November, I just sit there and think, Wow, did God really use us to do all of that?” Peterson said. “It’s just remarkable. You have to see it to believe it.”

Peterson and Wood work year-round packing shoe boxes.  They comb through sales and search out bargains.  Peterson has a knack for digging up collectable bottles, and he refurbishes old golf clubs, which he then sells off of his front porch—all proceeds going to Operation Christmas Child.  People also donate money to help Peterson and Wood fill shoe boxes.

I was never able to have a child of my own, Wood said.  But thanks to this project I don’t have just one or two kids—I have more than 7,000.”

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Operation Christmas Child, a project of international relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, uses whatever means necessary—ships, trucks, buses, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, camels, even dog sleds—to reach suffering children.  For many of these children, the shoe box gift will be the first gift they have ever received, letting them know they are loved and not forgotten.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has hand-delivered shoe box gifts to more than 69 million hurting children in more than 130 countries.  

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call (828) 262-1980 or visit SamaritansPurse.org. National Collection Week is Nov. 16-23, 2009.