Last Thanksgiving, around the time most kids start dreaming about owning the latest iPad or epic roller skates, 11-year-old Julia Navidi of North Bend, started dreaming about packing shoeboxes filled with gifts for other children her age.
In 2012, Julia personally funded and packed 33 shoebox gifts. But that wasn’t enough—the goal had been 50 and she had come just 17 short. She was determined to make her goal of 50, but it would take her an entire year of planning and working to make that dream a reality.
In the third week of November, Julia packed up her car with 50 boxes and drove them to the nearest collection center, at Bellevue Christian School. Her shoeboxes are a part of Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Each year millions of boxes are packed in the United States and sent to some of the world’s most impoverished children. She had made her goal, but it took of all of the 11-year-old’s efforts to make it happen.
“I always wondered what the kids would think, when they got a box,” said Julia. “I already have everything I want, but other kids have so little. I wanted other kids to have a great Christmas, too.”
Julia’s boxes were packed with gifts that she either paid for with her own money or that supporters donated so she could reach her goal. Her mom, Sandy Navidi, said Julia spent everything she earned and everything she was given on shoeboxes.
Sandy estimates that her daughter spent over 150 hours doing odd jobs to make the money necessary to purchase toys for her boxes. Julia said her least favorite job was scooping dog poop.
“She would come to me in March when it was pouring down rain, asking for any job she could do to make money for shoeboxes,” said Sandy. “Making 50 boxes for an 11-year-old kid doesn’t just happen. Month after month, week after week, I watched her do odd jobs and save her money to make her boxes.”
These weren’t just any boxes. Every box Julia packed, she packed to the point of popping open with all kinds of Christmas delights like caterpillar stuffed animals, toothbrushes, green-and-blue-swirled bouncy balls, sparkly jump ropes, and her personal favorite, fart putty.
“I always thought, what would be the kid’s reaction, should I add a little more of this or a little more of that?” Julia said. Before sending away her boxes for shipping Julia would check each one to make sure it was just right. Julia wanted each box to be an explosion of toys, every spare nook and cranny of the box would be packed with chewing gum or blue pencils.
In early October, Julia worried that she wouldn’t be able to make her goal. She was 15 boxes short.
She went out to her dad’s old office, which she has set up as a shoebox assembly room, and laid out the last 15, nearly empty boxes. She remembered her favorite Bible verse, which she often has written on her hand.
“Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” said Julia. “I prayed that God would help me fill my boxes so that other kids could feel loved."
The next Sunday at church five different women came up to Julia and gave her rest of the toys she needed to fill her boxes to the brim.
“She’s worked tirelessly for these boxes and the outcome has been magical. Her desire to give to others is really the true spirit of Christmas,” said Sandy Navidi. “It’s amazing what even a kid can do if she sets her mind to it.”
Julia has already started working on her boxes for next year. Her goal is to make 75. In order to make her goal, Julia will need to earn over $1,000.
National collection week for Operation Christmas Child is generally the third week in November. For more information about how to pack your own box visit occ.org or contact Tricia Howland, Valley relay coordinator at (425)-417-2386. To support Julia contact her mom, Sandy Navidi at email@example.com.