23 Dec Beyond Byars|Wright: Stacey Junkin and Operation Christmas Child
Stacey Junkin, Finance Manager at Byars|Wright, spends her free time volunteering with Operation Christmas Child – and not just at Christmas.
Operation Christmas Child, with the help of volunteers like Stacey, organize and collect shoe boxes to be delivered to children around the world.
What looks like just a shoe box, is a gift box filled with toys, hygiene items, and small gifts to be given to a child around the world. People of all ages work together during the holiday season to pack the shoe boxes and get them ready for shipment. After individuals prepare the items to be packaged and shipped, churches and other large groups serve as drop-off locations during the third November of every year.
Stacey Junkin leads Operation Christmas Child for her church every year. “As Project Leader for my church, I coordinate monthly items that we collect all year so that our church kids can start packing boxes in the fall.”
She started volunteering her time to do this in 2013, shortly after a family loss led her to Operation Christmas Child.
“My cousin’s husband was tragically killed in a car accident in 2013. He was from Romania, and as the Christmas season came along after his passing, we learned that he received a shoebox as a child. My mom and I decided to lead the packing of shoeboxes at our church that year, and we packed a total of 24 boxes. The next year, we researched and learned more about the shoebox ministry and a spark ignited in us. We knew we wanted to be more involved. Our church alone packs over 400 boxes. I served as a Year Round Volunteer on the Prayer team for a couple of years and then the opportunity came along for our church to open as a Drop-Off location in Walker County. Since we opened in 2016, I’ve served as our Drop-Off Coordinator. My kids, as well as our church kids, have grown to love this ministry. They take to heart our mission and they realize this may be the first gift a child on the other side of the world may receive.”
Stacey continued to say that one of her favorite things about being part of this ministry is that her family is involved and right there with her while volunteering.
“My mom is my ‘right-hand’ in my position as Drop-Off Coordinator. My kids are able to be a part of packing boxes as well and serve with me at the drop-off location,” she said.
Pictured above, Stacey Junkin packs shoeboxes and her daughter loads them to be delivered.
Stacey enjoys this season, but she also spends time shopping for bargains throughout the year to increase the items they can buy. They also do fundraisers to cover the shipping of the shoeboxes.
As you would expect, 2020 brought a few changes to how Operation Christmas Child volunteers did their work this year.
“We completed another drop-off season in November, though COVID-19 did force us to change a few processes,” Stacey explained. “We converted to a curbside drop-off station so that people could safely drop off their gifts with little to no contact. We also limited the number of volunteers working at each location this year to cut down our risk.”
Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop Stacey Junkin and volunteers like her from completing their mission and reaching their goals to deliver gifts to children around the world. Now, more than ever, Operation Christmas Child brings joy to many people!
The impact made by volunteers is more than just a good deed. It’s an opportunity to give children a gift. This is, unfortunately, something many of them have never before received.
“We try to focus on that this is not only a simple shoebox gift, but a ministry opportunity that we would most likely never get a chance to have without a shoebox” said Stacey.
There is a special item included in the shoeboxes packed in Stacey’s church: a picture with their mailing address.
“While we know it is not always possible, we always hope to hear back from the recipients of our boxes.”
Out of the hundreds of boxes they’ve sent, they’ve been fortunate enough to hear back from four!
“Because of our church’s picture and address, I was able to make a special connection with a family in Cameroon, Africa. When they received our box with our information in it, this family was able to locate me through Facebook! We have had video calls and were able to “meet” the kids who received shoeboxes this way. Their mother has become a very good friend of mine over the past several months and we keep in touch. She had a baby boy in November and named him Cason, after my son Cason.”
Pictured above, Stacey Junkin and her son Cason are moving boxes ready to ship.
This mother, like many others, was clearly touched by Stacey and her servant’s heart!
While there are many great stories about children that have been impacted by the shoeboxes, another one of Stacey’s favorites is about a young girl from the Philippines.
“A teenage girl from Tuscaloosa, that I know through Operation Christmas Child, went on a distribution trip in the Philippines one year. She saw a little girl coming to the church where the shoeboxes were being delivered to. The little girl only had on a t-shirt. Several of the teenage girls who were there to hand out the boxes saw this little girl and were very upset. They gathered in a corner and said a prayer for the girl and for her to receive a box that would have just what she would need in it. When the little girl opened her box, there was a pair of pants and shoes in it. There are many stories that are similar to this one, with kids receiving just what they need, want, or have been praying for in a shoebox that was packed on the other side of the world.”
Every shoe box that is packed, is accompanied by The Greatest Gift. This is a book about Jesus and his love for them in their own language, and that makes it even more special. After they receive their shoebox, they can attend a 12-week program called The Greatest Journey, where they learn more about Christ. When they finish the program, they receive a Bible in their language.
“Year after year, I hear more and more stories about Operation Christmas Child and it continues to excite me. It makes me realize there are things we take for granted here that are so much more valuable to children on the other side of the world,” said Stacey.
As you can see, Stacey Junkin, makes our Byars|Wright family proud. With selflessness and joy, she is committed to Operation Christmas Child and devotes much of her time to spreading the Gospel and Christmas spirit around the world.