Shoeboxes were stacked outside classrooms at Charlotte Christian School last week, each a step closer to the school's goal of collecting 1,000 boxes - almost one per student.
The school has donated boxes to Operation Christmas Child - a project of Samaritan's Purse that ships boxes of toys and hygiene items to underprivileged children worldwide - for more than 10 years.
This year, the school increased its goal, and students have responded.
"They don't really get to have the experience we have here in the U.S.," said fifth-grader Robert Marshall. "I want them to experience what we feel every Christmas."
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Last week was the official collection week for Operation Christmas Child, which hopes to collect about 75,000 boxes in the Charlotte area. Many children who receive the boxes have very few possessions.
Barry Giller, Charlotte Christian head of school, said the OCC project shows students a tangible way they can help others.
"We know that our students come from a very blessed material background," he said. "We'll take any opportunity to help our students see the bigger picture outside of CCS."
Many students filled boxes with items that meant something to them.
Elizabeth Davis, 14, put in nail polish. Lauren Hogg, 12, said she loves music and included toy microphones and a toy flute in one of her boxes. Chloe Lichtenberger, 10, included notepads because she likes to write stories.
Lauren packed 25 boxes for OCC; Mallory Brown, 11, donated 24.
"God just really placed it on my heart this year that I should pack these boxes, because it really does make a difference," Lauren said.
Students were asked to write notes to the children who will receive the boxes, and a tracking code on some will show children where the boxes go.
Allycia Brown, director of student life for CCS's lower school, said some children have given up money they earned from their parents for good grades to buy items for the boxes. One student declined birthday presents; the student instead packed 20 OCC boxes with party gifts.
"It doesn't take much in this community to get kids on board," Brown said. "They want to help."
On Nov. 17, members of CCS's National Honor Society counted the boxes and drove them to Calvary Church, a collection site in Charlotte.
Student body President Jay Patterson said students were excited to know the boxes would have an impact on the children.
"It makes everyone realize how fortunate they are and how packing a little box can help people, even if it's just a small thing to do," he said.
"I hope (the recipients) feel like we love them," said Taylor Calkins, 11. "We know they go through a lot."