By Kari Lutes, Features Editor

The Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoebox packing party will be held in the Stuce on Nov. 16th for the third year in row. For Senior Ashley Dickerson, this year will be special because it will be her last packing party after starting the event three years ago as the head of the Issues Awareness Committee (IAC) her Sophomore year.

Dickerson remembers OCC as a part of her Thanksgiving celebration growing up.

“It was a big part of what my family did. My brother would choose a boy and I’d choose a girl, and we’d pick an age group and just go shop for the boxes,” she said.

Since her early involvement, Ashley has had a heart for the event, appreciating the way Samaritan’s Purse, through OCC, spreads the love of Jesus to children in the form of a shoebox full of school supplies, hygiene items, toys and a Christmas card.

“It has so much joy in it. They approach it on two fronts, it is a spiritual ministry, but it’s also an opportunity to just give a gift. It’s very much a tangible gift of love, [showing the kids that] there’s someone who cares enough about you, and there’s Jesus who loves you so much more than that,” Dickerson said.

When in her sophomore year, Dickerson became the head of IAC, she decided to bring her love of OCC to campus, and her committee agreed.

“Our focus was on giving students a tangible way to get involved, and we thought what a fun way to really make an impact,” Dickerson said.

The committee decided to make it a community effort, collecting items instead of already full boxes, so that campus could come together to fill boxes at the packing event.

“[Collecting items instead] was something that was a little challenging and still is challenging, but God has worked through it in really cool ways,” Dickerson said.

It has so much joy in it. They approach it on two fronts, it is a spiritual ministry, but it’s also an opportunity to just give a gift.

The event has had an impact on many students on campus. Senior Ben Nadicksbernd and junior Rachel Poole have both been involved with OCC before coming to Asbury and gravitated toward the packing party as a way to continue their involvement in the ministry. Poole even led the planning of the event last year.

“It is always really cool to see how many people come out to the event to fill boxes,” Poole said. “Last year, we actually ran out of boxes and supplies in the first 20 minutes of the event, filling almost 100 boxes! I remember being so shocked and wishing we could have had enough money to buy more supplies to fill more boxes.”

Nadicksbernd hopes to see involvement in the event increase in the years to come.

“I believe that Ashley, through this event, will leave behind a legacy of giving before the holiday season; and hopefully this event will continue on as an annual event held on campus for years to come,” He said.

That is Dickerson’s hope for the event as well.

“My biggest hope is that it would continue and that people who are passionate about the ministry would step into it,” She said. “If you haven’t heard of us, give it a try. Come pack a box and share some joy”

Students can get involved by donating items or money for items in their dorms or at the cafeteria kiosks, or by donating money for shipping online. The packing party event will be held Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Stuce.