Exchange students help fundraiser

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Exchange students Aygul Mingaleyeva, Emese Ceke and Mariya Madyrova help put together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child at First Baptist Church in Greenville. Advocate Staff/Patty Vaughan

Many people know what it’s like to give a shoebox to Operation Christmas Child, but for Emese Ceke, she knows what it’s like to receive one.

Ceke is an exchange student from Serbia visiting Butler County for one year. When she was younger she received a shoebox full of gifts from Operation Christmas Child.

“We want to help more children and we want to make people happy for Christmas time,” Ceke said. “I know how it feels when you get a box that you’re happy. We weren’t that poor that we didt have Christmas presents. It feels good that somebody thinks about you that doesn’t even know you who just wants to help. It’s good that I can do the same thing to help them.”

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Tom Crenshaw, a volunteer, said these exchange students are required to do some enhancement activities throughout the year, and one of them is to do a community service project.

“The one we chose to do is Operation Christmas Child,” Crenshaw said. “We had already chosen it before we realized that Emese has actually received one of these boxes as a child back in Serbia. I thought it was a doubly good community service project for them to get involved in.”

Operation Christmas Child is done through Samaritan’s Purse, a 40-year program that focuses on emergency relief and community and vocational development in impoverished villages.

“Operation Christmas Child is a mission to provide a small box of toys and gifts for children all over the world who might not otherwise have any gifts at all for Christmas,” Crenshaw said. “[These exchange students] put together 10 boxes with money that they raised and donated themselves, and they’ve donated 10 boxes to children across the world.”

On Monday, volunteers had collected more than 300 boxes to put into large cardboard boxes that will be shipped.

“What we’re doing here today is we’re logging the number of boxes in for each organization, and we’re making sure that they’re secured and that they’re labeled properly,” Crenshaw said. “Then we take all the small boxes and put them in the larger boxes. They’ll be accepting boxes from now until Thursday 14th.”

For those wanting to track a donation, if you pay $7 online, the box can be tracked until it reaches a child. A $7 donation is asked to go with each box to cover shipping and handling charges.

Some gift suggestions to put into the box include pens, pencils, sharpeners, crayons or markers, stamps, small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, toothbrushes, toothpaste, t-shirts, socks, ball caps and more. Items not to include are damaged items, war-related items, food, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins or breakable items.

“So many people don’t get anything for Christmas, and these kids probably never get paper or pencil or toys to play with and this is just a Christian way to show that somebody is thinking about them and somebody that gives them a little gift so they don’t feel forgotten. Of course they go to countries that are not Christian as well as Christian countries, so it’s non-denominational, it’s just simply to spread the love of Christ to people who wouldn’t have anything any other way.”

To give a shoebox, one needs to decide whether it’s a boy or girl, fill it with gifts, donate $7 and drop it off at First Baptist Church in Greenville. For any questions visit, and for those interested in hosting a foreign exchange student, email Crenshaw at

“We have so much and it’s only right that we should share it with those that have a lot less than we have,” Crenshaw said. “It’s not one church. It’s not one denomination. It’s not one group. The entire community can really get together and support this.”