AVON — With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, ’tis the season for many to be shopping.
Molly Rehberg, on the other hand, maintains a year-round spirit of Christmas giving for impoverished youths in faraway lands.
“It’s always on my mind,” Molly, 14, said of her support for Operation Christmas Child. In fact, rather than go on a Black Friday shopping spree this year, Molly spent Nov. 25 in Baltimore, volunteering in the final packaging of Operation Christmas Child gifts headed overseas.
Avon teen’s involvement in Operation Christmas Child extends year-round
Operation Christmas Child is an international effort founded in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational outreach organization. According to the Samaritan’s Purse website, nearly 200 million children in more than 170 countries and territories have received gifts through Operation Christmas Child.
A number of parishes across the Diocese of Rochester take part in the annual initiative. It is a longtime focus for Avon’s St. Agnes Parish — where the Rehbergs belong — and for St. Rose, Lima, and St. Paul of the Cross, Honeoye Falls.
Christine DeVito, the cluster’s faith-formation coordinator, noted that the three parishes contribute more than 100 shoeboxes full of gifts each fall.
Several of those boxes are assembled by Molly, whose involvement began a couple of years ago and grew rapidly. One of Molly’s three sisters, 8-year-old Kate, also has become intrigued by Operation Christmas Child and now helps out as well. Molly and Kate spend much of the year scouting out gifts and adding them to their basement inventory.
This year, Molly took her commitment up a notch, kicking off the first weekend of Advent by traveling with her mother, Jackie, and DeVito on a first-time trip to a Samaritan’s Purse processing center in Baltimore. There, they helped prepare vast shipments to such places as Asia, South America, Africa and remote island nations.
Sisters assemble wide variety of gifts for children in need
A late-October visit to the Rehbergs’ home revealed their intense dedication to the cause.
Several completed or nearly completed shoeboxes were filled with such items as small toys, school supplies, personal-hygiene items, coloring books with crayons, homemade puzzles, supplies for making jewelry, stuffed animals, water bottles, socks, gloves and small books with religious themes.
Molly and Kate explained that they assemble themed baskets for girls who are around their own ages, often using money from their family. They also welcome donations of cash and gifts from friends and the wider community — including Molly’s local Girl Scout Troop 51054 — and keep a close eye out for items that are on deep discount.
“I went to the dentist and got two stuffed animals. I kept one and gave one to my sister (for Operation Christmas Child),” said Kate, who added, “I donated a headband I won at a Halloween party.”
DeVito noted that the Avon/Lima/Honeoye Falls cluster used to work on Operation Christmas Child in group settings, but that — largely owing to the coronavirus pandemic — boxes currently are assembled at home by individual families. Yet Molly hopes to play a role in reuniting parishioners to work on the initiative at some point.
“My dream would be to have a packing party. I’ve always wanted to have one of those,” she said.
Teen seeks to share love, spirituality as well as gifts
Molly said she’s attached to Operation Christmas Child not only because it brings happiness to fellow youths in need but also strives to evangelize in parts of the world where Christianity is not common.
“It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, spreading the word of Jesus,” she said. “There’s been stories about how (Operation Christmas Child) has changed people’s lives and converted their families to Christianity.”
Molly often personalizes her shoeboxes by including handwritten notes and pictures of herself — an extra effort recipients might find even more valuable than the gifts themselves, she said.
“It shows that they’re loved across the world and loved by God,” she explained.
Molly’s involvement with Operation Christmas Child might best be summed up by a popular quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “It is in giving that we receive.”
“The big reason why I do this is because it makes me happy,” she said.Tags: Faith in Action, Livingston County News