Elizabeth Henry of Williamsburg, Va., a freshman majoring in university studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, became active in Operation Christmas Child when she was 13 years old.

Operation Christmas Child, founded in 1970 through Samaritan’s Purse, asks for donations in the form of a shoe box filled with small toys, school supplies, and toiletries for a child in need. The packages are then delivered by Christmas Day to 130 countries.

“I was adopted when I was 13, and I remembered receiving one of these boxes when I was in the orphanage," said Elizabeth Henry. "Receiving that box made me feel like someone cared and loved me even though I felt alone. So when I found out that people pack boxes all over the world, I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to give back.”

For the last two years, Elizabeth and her sister, Taylor Henry, also of Williamsburg, and a freshman majoring in history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, have gathered enough items for 150 boxes in 2011 and enough for 268 boxes in 2012. This year, they say their goal is to collect 300 packages with the help of new Virginia Tech friends and student organizations.

And while the program has been great for children across the world, it’s had a positive effect on the Henry sisters as well. 

“The experience last year was amazing,” said Elizabeth Henry. “It’s hard to describe how much joy it brought to me. Last year was a big step for me because I took it to the next level. I put posters out everywhere. I put out a stand at my high school. I involved the clubs that I was in. I asked my friends and their families to do it. I asked my church and my softball team. It’s crazy how much you can do if you just put your mind to it. In the end it all came together and to me it was an amazing accomplishment.”

The sisters have stepped it up even further this year, bringing their message to campus classes and groups. They were also invited by Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer to share information on the program with the football team and coaching staff.

“This year was especially tough because I had to step out of my comfort zone and speak in front of so many people,” said Elizabeth Henry. “But I do it because I know what it is like to be in an orphanage and be poor and alone and I want to make those kids happy — make them feel loved, as someone did for me eight years ago.”



Written by Drew Knapp

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