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Season of giving

Oak Crest volunteers spread Christmas cheer to kids half a world away

Created date

October 23rd, 2015
Oak Crest resident
Oak Crest resident

Amelia Earhart once said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Oak Crest volunteers bring that metaphor to life with every box of goodies they send to kids around the world.

Residents of the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community prepared 100 shoebox-sized containers filled with toys, toiletries, snacks, school supplies, and clothing items for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian International Relief organization based in Boone, N.C. 

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters, and other crises in more than 150 countries and territories. 

Wonderful legacy 

Nancylee DeGreif, a grandmother of ten and great-grandmother of five, got involved with the project soon after moving to Oak Crest two years ago through her friend Audrey Brodbeck. Audrey organized Oak Crest’s Operation Christmas Child project for several years before passing away in early 2015. Now Nancylee leads the effort. 

“It’s such a worthwhile program. I decided to pick up where Audrey left off,” says NancyLee. I thought it would be nice to continue it in honor of her.”

Along with a committee of six Oak Crest volunteers, Nancylee began collecting monetary donations in July to purchase items like soap, combs, coloring books, crayons, socks, puzzles, reusable water bottles, and stuffed animals to fill the boxes. The volunteers opted to purchase items for 50 girls and 50 boys, ages five through nine. 

A local dental clinic donated toothbrushes and toothpaste, and the Oak Crest administration donated plastic shoebox-sized containers.

With all items collected, Nancylee relied on volunteers to help fill the boxes. The Nottingham Square Chick-fil-A then collected the filled boxes and delivered them to the Operation Christmas Child distribution center. 

“I estimate we probably spent about $1,500 to $2,000 all total,” says Nancylee. “We managed to fit quite a bit into each box. “I’m grateful for all of the residents who are so enthusiastic about helping with this project.” 

‘Helping people who can’t help themselves’

Volunteer Marjorie Baseman is no stranger to the Operation Christmas Child project. Marjorie volunteered with her church in Harford County before moving to Oak Crest ten years ago. 

“I like helping people who can’t help themselves,” says Marjorie. “This is such a great program. We are serving children who don’t have anything. It’s so easy to do. You just fill as many boxes as you want, and the people at Operation Christmas Child will take care of getting them where they need to go.” 

More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, with more than 100,000 of those in the United States, are involved in collecting, shipping, and distributing shoebox gifts. During National Collection Week—November 16 through 23—Samaritan’s Purse collects the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. 

Marjorie says being part of a community that has so many opportunities to help others is just one of the things she loves about Oak Crest. 

“Whenever someone asks me if I’m happy that I moved here, I always think to myself, ‘Where would I be and what would I be doing if I wasn’t here?’” says Marjorie. “I was married for 60 years when my husband passed away. So I would be at home alone. Here, I always have something to do. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer; we have shows and different events—I have to keep up with the calendar to see what I’ve got going on each week.”

Oak Crest residents Patricia and Ron Stokes volunteered to help shop for and fill the gift boxes. This was their first time participating with Operation Christmas Child. 

“We have enjoyed being part of the project,” says Ron, who serves as chair of communications, nominations, and elections on Oak Crest’s Resident Advisory Council. “Nancylee is the driving force behind the whole thing. We are just here to offer support.”

The Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift drive is just one of many charitable volunteer opportunities at Oak Crest throughout the year. Residents also organize an annual Salvation Army Stocking Stuffing, participate in the Maryland Food Bank Feed the Hungry Project, and prepare and donate casseroles for Our Daily Bread, a Catholic Charities hot meal program in Baltimore. 

For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit