The Shoe Box

By: Loraine A. Más Vayas

As part of a regular society most people grow up hoping to go to college and then have this typical eight  hours a day job, but this is about those who go even a bit further than this in their everyday lives.

Most working citizens nowadays have work hours from eight in the morning  to 5 in the evening, or at least those are the paid work hours most people do. How about those who take extra time to give hours or labor for others and expect nothing in return? Domingo Rivera, 51,just an ordinary accountant in Mayagüez, is an example of this type of everyday citizen.

Since childhood his parents taught him and his siblings that being selfless was, as he said, “the purest way of feeling good”. He recalls how when a storm hit, his father woke them up early and asked them to accompany him carrying tools up the road to see who needed help. “There was always someone who did.”

That boy carrying a tool box is today a grown middle aged man with dark black hair, and thick glasses who eagerly recreates those memories in his mind. Openly explaining how it’s such a big part of his life, which he is forever thankful for to his parents and God.

Mr. Rivera was involved in the Operation Christmas Child project. “I’m involved in various activities which are dedicated to giving back, this one is just particularly special to me.” It’s a project that uses a shoe box or any small box, you add toys and a few articles of necessities and seven dollars inside for shipping charges. It then goes to a packaging center, which checks them and sends them to areas of extreme poverty in the world, where children then receive them as a gift on Christmas day.

“It doesn’t only help the children who receive the gift; at the time I started with this I was overly involved in my workload, focused only in my career, I wasn’t happy.  This operation reminded how self rewarding it is to help others, it helped me not put all my energy on my work only.”

“At first it was just a few boxes,” said his wife for 29 years Erica Cortés. The first time Rivera participated in this project he only asked his family and close acquaintances to be involved, as he went to the drop off center he saw so many young people, involved he decided to be prepared for the following year and help out even more.

Every year for the following three years he, with the help of his family, involved his Presbyterian church in this operation which was quickly adopted by the other church members. The first year they gathered 168 boxes, the second 230, but last year they reached almost 400 boxes.

As people from the neighborhood saw the movement many joined and soon the goal of boxes was fulfilled. Somehow Rivera knew something more could be done.

He knew many people with their busy daily lives did not have the time to buy toys and fill the whole box, so he created a system. He and his wife went out and bought toys and materials by the dozens or hundreds; he then gathered volunteers and they all assembled boxes according to ages and gender.

This way people would simply donate around 14 dollars for the cost of the complete gift shoe box with toys and necessities. The box would then be shipped and months later he could tell each person the approximate area where the boxes where distributed to.

“I still highly encourage people to do the whole process themselves, it’s a very nice and fulfilling experience. Sadly, I know not everyone is as dedicated to make the time for this, so we came up with this method,” said Cortés.

Because the whole organization goes by a Christian belief, praying  for the delivery of the shoe box and the child who receives it is also another step in the process of making and shipping the box.

This organization has various other projects which help the situation of poverty in certain areas around the world. Rivera, along with many friends who agreed, donated for a Clean Water Filter (one of the various projects) to be placed in one villages watering hole, which in the long run would decrease diseases.

Rivera explained how at one point he wanted to know a bit more about this organization and he called their headquarters in the United States. He spoke to a volunteer who told her story while getting to see the boxes being delivered. He remembers her saying “it’s always a risk in some of the countries they reach,” but in that moment she could only focus on a child’s smile receiving a gift for once in their life.

Speaking about his parents he said  “My mother worked hard to get ahead in life and my father showed me to be strong yet caring, to this day they hold the same values they showed me 45 years ago.”

This year the organizers of his congregation hope to exceed 400 boxes, and also to be able to help on any additional projects during the year. Rivera finished saying  how many everyday people like him are involved in this project; he is just one out of many, yet his vision is to get the younger generations actively involved with activities like this one.

Thousands of volunteers and people around the United States are involved in this project as volunteers, and leaders in independent movements such as this one. Many would admire this man for his dedication, humility and bravery for an involvement like this, but this is just an example of everyday people who go an extra mile in their everyday life.

A van ready to go to distribution center, filled with the shoe boxes.

A van ready to go to distribution center, filled with the shoe boxes.

Domingo Rivera with his parents Domingo Rivera Sr. and Carmen Rivera.

Domingo Rivera with his parents Domingo Rivera Sr. and Carmen Rivera.

Operation Christmas Child Logo

Operation Christmas Child Logo

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