Wadsworth, Ohio may be a small town, but they are mighty in spirit.
Matt and Kristel Stone are grain farmers who would describe their community as a place that has the feel of a “Hallmark-like town.”
That being said, it’s also where a small legacy has grown into an impressive witness for the love of Christ, according to Samaritan’s Purse.
The community comes together each fall on Saturday mornings to assemble shoeboxes, write notes to the children who will receive them, pack the shoeboxes with both practical and fun Christmas items, and pray over the boxes for their safe journey overseas.
It has become quite the elaborate operation in which the Stones host about 40 events with about 1,000 attendees in their barn. The barn is approximately 175 years-old.
The goal this year is to pack 5,000 shoeboxes on behalf of Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse that will bless needy children around the world.
The impressive event had humble enough beginnings, but a rich foundation that became a touching legacy.
Matt’s mom, Jenny Stone, is the Christian warrior who laid the foundation.
Jenny had the opportunity to deliver shoeboxes in Mexico sometime in the early 2000s, and was never the same after that.
“I saw her heart just come alive for that which Christ’s heart beats, too, when she got to deliver a box to a child in need. I’ll never forget that because she came home changed,” Matt said.
Watching the delight of the children who received the boxes sparked a flame within Jenny.
After that, it became a family event with Jenny leading the way, organizing shopping excursions and family packing events. Back then, the goal was 50 boxes.
Then when she became sick in 2015, before she passed away she expressed her wishes for the family to continue participating in Operation Christmas Child, and even growing it beyond what she had been able to do.
For two hours each Saturday in the fall, people from the community come to the Styx and Stones Farm to assemble @OCC_shoeboxes as they continue the passion of farm owner Matt Stone’s mother Jennie. Check this out! 🎁 https://t.co/Dmiemk8xoq pic.twitter.com/D2IM1ScIj8
— Samaritan’s Purse (@SamaritansPurse) November 13, 2022
The Stones have certainly managed to honor her memory in that way. This year marks the seventh year of keeping that memory going.
“They’re coming to the barn to put together something and be a part of something that’s much larger than them,” said Matt, adding that, “They get to see the work of the Gospel in real time and maybe in a different way.”
Those interested in participating with Operation Christmas Child directly can do so in more than one way.
Besides packing items in a physical shoebox, a shoebox can also be built online. In addition, there are options to volunteer at a processing center, or a donation can be made to help offset the project costs.
More details can be found at SamaritansPurse.org.