A Christmas Passion that Spreads Joy All Year Long

Woman posed with young children holding Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.
Thursday, December 5, 2019 - 11:53am

Chief Probation and Parole Officer Lauren Patterson was just a child the first time she volunteered with Operation Christmas Child, a ministry project of Samaritan’s Purse that provides children in need around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies. That one time was all it took to spark a passion within her. From that moment, Patterson continued to volunteer with the organization through her church until later down the road she was given the opportunity to become an area coordinator—and she took it.

Now, as the Central Area Coordinator for Stanly, Randolph and Montgomery counties, Patterson has spent the last five years managing collection drives in these communities and spending countless hours gathering boxes ready to be shipped to children in the 160 countries the organization serves. Patterson just wrapped up what she refers to as “Harvest Season” at the end of November, where all the eight collection spots in her area gather the last boxes for the year to be sent to the processing centers.

The final shoebox tally this year for the Central Area Team at the end of the event was 18,206. The 2019 collection goal for North and South Carolina Operation Christmas Child teams is 910,000 shoeboxes.

“It's so great to volunteer and be a part of something so big that reaches children all over the world,” Patterson said. “It’s a great thing to see our community come together for.”

All the time Patterson spends volunteering for Operation Christmas Child is done on top of her community corrections role. At times, volunteering can consume her free time, but for Patterson it is worth it. Though her volunteerism is an extracurricular activity, her passion for the organization has spread throughout her team. 

According to Patterson, many of her coworkers have volunteered alongside her at several collection or packaging events. Volunteering with coworkers can be exciting, and Patterson enjoys the fellowship it provides, especially during the holiday season. 

Through the connections she has made in her role in community corrections, Patterson has also been able to get members of other government agencies to participate in Operation Christmas Child events, bringing members of her community closer together through service. 

“Sometimes in our jobs we don’t always see the prettiest of situations,” Patterson said, “but we can produce something good through this.”

During the summer, Patterson got to travel with Operation Christmas Child to South Africa to deliver a portion of the 8 million shoeboxes that were donated in the US last year. The experience was life-changing, and she hopes to one day do it again.

Kirsten Barber