For 16 years, Clear Creek dental assistant Mindy Finnegan of Bremerton, Wash., and her family have kept a beautiful tradition. As an expression of personal gratitude for all they have, living here in the United States, they devote themselves each November to a special cause bundling care packages for children worldwide.

Having grown up in the Philippines, from kindergarten to sixth grade, Finnegan spent her childhood seeing what other youngsters went without. “So many live with nothing – not a toothbrush, not a pencil,” she said. “Realizing that as a kid stuck with me.”

Through their church, more than a decade and a half ago, they became connected to Operation Christmas Child (otherwise known as Shoebox Ministries) and joined a force of kind-hearted and passionate people wanting to make a difference and sharing the kind of love that can truly change someone’s life.

Simple things, often taken for granted – hygiene items, trinket toys, school supplies – are packed into shoeboxes with personal notes and shipped annually to those least expecting it. “My husband Steve and I love seeing joy in children’s eyes and our kids really relate to helping others like them,” she said. “I feel like as a family this is an opportunity to touch a child’s heart.”

This month, Finnegan’s 12-year-old, Caleb, and 6-year-old, Grace, once again created something special. “Watching my daughter select a girl her age, think deeply about what she would enjoy, shop for her, and in very beginner handwriting express a Merry Christmas wish is incredibly moving,” she said describing the prelude to the packing party. “We don’t have to see the outcome to imagine the recipients’ expressions. It is what this season is all about!”

Clear Creek patients Jim and Reneé De Camp of Bremerton, Wash., couldn’t agree more. “Nearly 10-million shoeboxes are filled and collected from communities like ours each Christmas, then delivered to children affected by poverty, war and natural disasters,” Reneé said. “For many, these shoeboxes will be the first gifts they have ever received!”

Committed to reaching out, Clear Creek Dentistry made a generous donation of toothbrushes this year to Operation Christmas Child. Though it seems simplistic, a boy in a Russian orphanage explained the difference such a gift made to him. “He was grateful that he no longer had to share a toothbrush with 20 other kids!” Reneé explained. “This is where the little things matter most.”

The De Camps have been volunteering together for 25 years and serve numerous charities. They became connected to Operation Christmas Child last year through their church and Reneé joined the area board this year.

“We so appreciate Clear Creek Dentistry’s support! There is still time if a family wants to individually fill a box,” she encouraged. Nov. 17-24 is National Collection Week. To find the nearest drop-off location, or to view videos of children receiving their shoeboxes, go to Samaritan’s Purse.

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