Natchez native Ashley Sandal, a University of Mississippi junior, has been instrumental in bringing a new charity to campus. Sandal is the community relations representative for Operation Christmas Child.
“My entire life, I have always loved community service and giving back, and this organization is one I hold close to my heart,” Sandal said.
OCC is a nonprofit organization that collects shoe boxes filled with small gifts and sends them to less fortunate children in third world countries. Gifts can be toothbrushes, teddy bears, socks, pencils, paper.
Sandal grew up donating a shoe box each Christmas through her hometown church.
“It made me more appreciative, and also learn to not take advantage of the small things in life because not everyone is as fortunate as I am,” said Sandal, who joined Sarah McCullem to promote the organization on campus.
Their original goal was to create a competition of who could raise the most shoe boxes throughout the Greek community on campus. The two girls convinced each sorority to have a representative who would help collect the shoe boxes.
“Everyone was very eager to get involved, which was one the of the most heart-warming feelings,” said Sandal.
Team members increased rapidly as word of this organization traveled.
“We plan to involve the entire community by reaching out to local churches, businesses, community groups, etc., to share the message of OCC and the difference it makes,” said Beth McCullem, area OCC coordinator for Northeast Mississippi.
Representatives received information to present to their organization Oct. 7, and they have begun collecting shoe boxes.
“OCC volunteers have the potential to make a positive impact for the ministry, and Ashley is a wonderful addition to the our community relations team,” said McCullem.
First Baptist Church of Oxford volunteered their church as the drop-off location for boxes that will be collected Nov. 16-23. Organizations will collect their shoe boxes and deliver them to First Baptist. Shoe boxes will then be sent to Atlanta for packaging. A mini version of the Gospel is put into each box.
“Some of these kids have never even heard of the Gospel,” said Sandal. “I believe that by putting a mini version in each box, the kids will learn to have a strong faith, and they will have hope in the world.
Shoe boxes are then flown out and delivered. Each year, shoe boxes are delivered to a different region, so some children will only receive one shoe box in their lifetime. Last year, shoe boxes were delivered to India.
“My biggest reward from working with this organization is knowing that I am spreading God’s love into the lives of these children and that I have impacted their life in a positive way,” Sandal said.
One day, she hopes to travel to the third world countries and deliver the boxes herself. The biology major plans to attend medical school and specialize in pediatrics. She dreams of traveling to foreign countries to help sick and suffering children.
Sandal’s friend Kassey Lundberg is a OCC representative for Kappa Delta, who was eager to get involved.
“Ashley is one of the most selfless and caring people I have ever met with a true love of giving back,” Lundberg said. “She is a true hero in the Oxford area, and I am beyond thrilled to work with her to better the lives of those in need.”