For the past four years, 12-year-old Evilyn Pinnow has led a group of kids at her Wisconsin church in packing shoeboxes filled with toys and other gifts for needy children at Christmas.
The shoeboxes are donated to Operation Christmas Child, a program launched nearly 20 years ago as part of evangelist Franklin Graham's ministry.
Evilyn's "Shoe Box Club" has assembled hundreds of the shoeboxes. And for her efforts, she has been asked to personally deliver Operation Christmas Child's 100 millionth shoebox to a child in the Dominican Republic next month.
In recent weeks, Evilyn has traveled across the country promoting the collection milestone for the North Carolina-based ministry. Graham is the son of Billy Graham, who founded his world-renowned ministry in Minneapolis nearly six decades ago.
Evilyn is scheduled to visit a warehouse in Bloomington on Nov. 30 that's used by Operation Christmas Child. She will talk about why the cause is important to her.
"The shoeboxes, it gives them hope," said Evilyn, who lives in Fort Atkinson in southeastern Wisconsin. "It makes them feel loved. Sometimes it's the only gift they've ever gotten."
In each state Evilyn visits, she collects items to be included in the symbolic 100 millionth shoebox. Besides small toys like jump ropes and yo-yos, the boxes often include hard candy, soap, brushes, toothpaste, clothing and school supplies.
Jeremy Bentley, an assistant director at Operation Christmas Child, said churches assemble the boxes and drop them off at nearly 3,500 locations nationwide.
Operation Christmas Child then takes the boxes, inspects them and ships them off to needy children in about 130 countries.
When Bentley and others in the ministry heard about Evilyn's efforts, they asked her to be the "spokeskid" for the collection this year.
"It's kids helping kids," Bentley said.
Rose French 612-673-4352