You, Too, Can Become a Year-Round Volunteer!

March 13, 2020 • United States
Volunteers Ed and Chris Duncan pause to celebrate how God worked to bring in truckloads of shoeboxes during National Collection Week.
Volunteers Ed and Chris Duncan pause to celebrate how God worked to bring in truckloads of shoeboxes during National Collection Week.

Operation Christmas Child invites you to encourage others to pack shoeboxes by serving in one of a variety of volunteer roles all 12 months of the year.

Have you ever considered getting more involved with Operation Christmas Child? It’s not just a holiday ministry—more than 9,000 people across the United States volunteer year-round with this Samaritan’s Purse project! They serve in roles ranging from area leadership to logistics to community relations to church relations.


Read on as some of our current volunteers recently shared why they serve, what obstacles they’ve overcome, and what benefits they receive in the process.

Why Volunteer?

“Every shoebox gift represents the love of Jesus and provides the opportunity to share the Good News of salvation,” said Chris Duncan, a phlebotomy technician from Fernley, Nevada. She volunteers together with her husband Ed, a retired Navy veteran who currently works as a truck driver.

Nancy Benedik and her husband Andy (right) with Jim Harrelson, vice president of Operation Christmas Child (left), and Edward Graham, son of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham.

Nancy Benedik and her husband Andy (right) with Jim Harrelson, vice president of Operation Christmas Child (left), and Edward Graham, son of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham.

“This is the Great Commission. This is [what] Jesus asked us to do—go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every living creature and Operation Christmas Child makes it possible!”

Andy Benedik, a former pharmaceutical sales representative from Littleton, Colorado, also serves in church relations with his wife Nancy, a retired nurse.

“We do it because we know it’s adding to God’s Kingdom,” Nancy said. “Who could sit on the sidelines and not get involved? It’s touching eternity!”

What If I’m Afraid?

Chris volunteers in church relations and that involves maintaining contact with congregations who already pack shoeboxes and also presenting the opportunity to churches who don’t know about Operation Christmas Child. Chris enjoyed telling people about the shoebox project before she became a year-round volunteer, and she saw God equip her for the role.

“I was not a public speaker at all,” she said. “Standing in front of people freaked me out. I found through prayer and being equipped with the materials that I needed—being educated—that it’s not hard at all. Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child provide everything you need.”

“Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child provide everything you need.”

In time, Chris overcame her fears: “God’s provided me with a calmness and he equipped me with knowledge through research and preparedness, through project leader workshops and Connect conferences. I have never felt alone.

“It’s like sharing the Gospel—you present the material and God provides the increase. We do our part and leave the rest to God. It takes the pressure off.”

Gwenn Rackley, a small business owner from Sanford, North Carolina, also faced fears before assuming her year-round role: “I wasn’t sure if I was a good fit for the team, if I could actually do the job and do it well.”

Yet, her solution to overcoming the obstacles was simple. “By prayer you work through all that,” she said.

God’s Work Is Greater than Our Weakness

Diana Alba serves as the church relations coordinator for metro Miami. Describing herself as quiet and shy, she said, “[My] fear made me depend more on God and know this is not all me. This is God’s work.”

Diana Alba has fun spreading the word about Operation Christmas Child as a year-round volunteer.

Diana, who has a full-time job as a housekeeper, started volunteering in November 2018, but by March 2019, she said, “I had a fear that I wasn’t able to do it. God brought me back to the story of Gideon.”

This Old Testament figure asked God, “‘How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest…and I am least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you’” (Judges 6:15-16).

Reflecting on that story, Diana said of volunteering, “This is not about me. It’s not about how many connections I have. It’s because of the grace of God and, if it’s His will, things are going to happen.”

God honored Diana’s obedience in a significant way. This time last year, she was the only team member in metro Miami and they lacked partner churches. But by 2019’s National Collection Week (the third week of November), they had five team members, three drop-off locations, and 2,232 shoebox gifts.

“All this happened because I said, ‘Here I am.’ [When we] work together, we start to see miracles.”

It’s Worth the Time

Gwenn Rackley (in sunglasses) and friends drop-off 575 shoeboxes their church packed to bless children in need.

The amount of time individual volunteers spend on their Operation Christmas Child roles varies. Diana spends four to five hours a week on church relations. Gwenn, on the other hand commits 10 hours a week in the off-season but closer to 20 hours a week in November.

“I think a lot of people think it’s a 40-hour [a week] job volunteering,” said Gwenn. “I think that scares a lot of people.” She wants potential volunteers to know, “It’s not like that.”

Chris also spends about 10 hours a week in her role and more than that in November, but she said, “Our family life doesn’t suffer at all. It doesn’t take up every single minute of the day—it’s just a priority for us.”

Growing in Prayer and Faith

Volunteers agree that the benefits of being involved year-round outweigh any initial anxieties.

“If God has touched your heart in some way and you know that He is wanting you to do it, you have to step out in faith,” Nancy said. “God will not disappoint you. You just have to give it a try and see how God will bless you. You will not regret it.”

One of the unexpected perks of volunteering is that it has transformed her prayer life and that of her husband Andy, too.

“Operation Christmas Child says to us, ‘We don’t want you to make a phone call, we don’t want you to talk to anyone, we don’t want you to do anything without praying about it first,’” Andy said. “That’s strengthened our prayer life together tremendously. We’ve been married for 43 years, and it has drawn us as a couple closer together. It’s caused us to be praying much more consistently for our team, for our churches, for our project leaders. It’s caused our relationship with all of them to grow.”

“We’ve been married for 43 years and it has drawn us as a couple closer together.”

Nancy relies on one particular promise from Scripture as she volunteers: “Faithful is He who called you for He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, NASB). She has consistently seen God answer their prayers—especially as she and Andy intercede specifically for the people they meet at various churches. Many opt to get involved and pack more shoebox gifts for children in need around the world.

“We’re 70 years old now,” Andy said. “Our desire has always been to want to finish well. We can’t imagine finishing any better than this.”

Interested? Learn more about becoming a year-round volunteer.

Operation Christmas Child Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls in more than 100 countries each year. Many of these children have never before received a present or heard the true meaning of Christmas—until they open a gift-filled shoebox from a person like you. Some people are not able to give the $10 per shoebox we request for shipping and related costs. By adopting a shoebox, you can partner with them to deliver the Gospel and help "bring salvation to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47, ESV).

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Adopt a Shoebox: $10 | Adopt a Carton of 15 Boxes: $150