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Cool fall weather may have returned on Wednesday night, but that didn’t keep St. Paul Lutheran Elementary Principal Dustin Murray from camping out.

Murray was keeping his end of a promise to his students. If the students raised $1,800 – enough to pay shipping for the 200 Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes the school will pack – Murray would spend the night on the roof.

“Shipping costs are $9 a box,” Murray said. “The goal was to meet the $1,800 by Oct. 10 … of course, we surpassed that by $1,000 and reached $2,800.

“So, I’m sleeping on the roof.”

On Wednesday, the students gathered in the parking lot to watch as Murray climbed the ladder to spend an evening under the stars.

“One child wanted a video camera to make sure I stayed up on the roof,” Murray said with a laugh. He would give updates on Facebook Live throughout the event.

Murray said the extra money raised will be used to purchase items for the shoeboxes. Grade levels also bring in certain items to pack.

Packing shoeboxes is an annual event for the school. This is the second year they’ve packed 200 boxes. Students will pack and pray over the boxes on Oct. 24.

Gene and Barb Wilfong serve as co-directors for the Southeast Missouri District of Operation Christmas Child – which encompasses nine counties. Last year, more than 17,000 shoeboxes were packed, donated and shipped from the district for worldwide distribution. The goal this year for the Southeast District is 18,566 – about 8 percent over last year.

The ministry marks 25 years this year, with the collection week set for Nov. 12-19.

Four new team members are helping the couple with getting the word out about Operation Christmas Child. They are also hoping to get more businesses involved in collecting shoeboxes.

The $9 fee also covers the cost of the “Greatest Journey” – a 12-week discipleship program taught to the students receiving shoeboxes.

Packing a shoebox is easy – as directions from Samaritan’s Purse explain. Each individual box is designated for either boy or girl in the following age categories – 2-4; 5-9 or 10-14.

The box is then filled with age-appropriate toys and items - everything from dolls and soccer balls and pumps, to school supplies and hygiene items.

Some items were added to the “do not include” list and include candy, toothpaste, war-related toys, used or damaged items, and food or liquids.

Boxes are then delivered to the local drop-off locations during the week of Nov. 12-19. This year’s locations include First Baptist Church of Farmington, Leadington First Free Will Baptist, First Baptist Church of Fredericktown and Hope Church in Ste. Genevieve. New this year is a drop-off location in Marble Hill.

There is also an option of packing an online shoebox. For $25, a box for either a boy or girl will be filled with age-appropriate items – a new feature for the program in the past couple of years.

For more information on Operation Christmas Child collection in this area, contact Gene Wilfong at 573-218-8690.

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Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or


Farmington Press Managing Editor

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