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Fraternity helps needy kids despite damage from tornado

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Despite tornado damage to their fraternity house, Alpha Tau Omega members at Union University are remaining committed to a special cause — making Christmas brighter for needy children through gathering gift-filled shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

In the chapter’s house on the Jackson, Tenn., campus, couches remain littered with broken glass and heaped in a pile in one room. The Nov. 10 tornado that swept through the area put a tree through the roof and caused damage to the interior as well. Where there was once a door, there is now only a piece of plywood nailed to the wall. The hole in the roof is covered by a tarp, but a water-damaged spot grows across the ceiling.

On the opposite side of the main room, meanwhile, brightly colored red and green shoeboxes filled with children’s toys are stacked five feet high and three feet deep, covering the entire width of the wall, as part of the fraternity’s participation in the worldwide Operation Christmas Child ministry for needy children around the world sponsored by the Franklin Graham-led Samaritan’s Purse.

Last year Alpha Tau Omega collected more than 1,800 boxes in cooperation with area churches — this year the goal is at least 2,500.

“Even though our house is out of order, the importance and impact Operation Christmas Child can make remains the same,” said fraternity member Brian Curtis, a Christian studies major.

Only in their second year helping with the Christmas ministry, the young men could easily have chosen to focus on repairing their house before the rapidly approaching end to the semester. All agreed, though, that their misfortune is minimal in light of conditions confronting children around the world.

“The tragedy that’s happened to us is nothing in comparison to what these children face on a day-to-day basis,” said Derek Jones, a junior family studies major. “The poverty, the sickness and suffering they’re experiencing — even though we’ve had this disaster happen to us, we have so much we can still give.”

From across west Tennessee, shoeboxes dropped off by churches and individuals at the LifeWay Christian Store on Union’s campus are being stored at the ATO house until Nov. 23, when all of the gifts will be taken to a drop-off point in Memphis.

More than 6 million children on six continents will receive gift-filled shoeboxes this year as part of Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest children’s Christmas project. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has hand-delivered more than 18 million shoebox gifts via plane, boat, helicopter, even donkey and dog sled to children suffering from disease, war, terrorism, natural disaster, poverty and famine.

Said Curtis, “When you think about the number of times a simple shoebox leads to salvation because of the Christian literature that’s in each one and they’re all hand-delivered, it’s engrained in us as Union students that as Christians we are to help people.

“As college students, we can’t give a lot but we all have shoeboxes.”
Jody Webster contributed to this article. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: DESPITE THE TORNADO.

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  • Sara Horn