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Special delivery brightens lives of children in need

In a country without snow, in the middle of May, a very special Christmas party was staged.

Shoeboxes packed with love and prayers by families from Woodbury and across the world had arrived in Uganda months earlier, but had been held up by customs officials.

Five months after the Christmas holiday, lifelong Woodbury resident Leslie Sabbann was there to see the joy at the Sammy Children's Centre International as she helped distribute 120 of those shoeboxes full of toys and personal hygiene items.

Now, Sabbann is calling on families across Woodbury once again to pack up a shoebox as part of the annual national "Operation Christmas Child" campaign.

"We have been so blessed in America to have a lot more than any of these people," she said.

"We have running water and electricity and they don't even have that, so spending a couple of dollars to pack a shoebox and send it can do a lot."

Sabbann, who graduated from New Life Academy in Woodbury in 2006, is currently a junior studying mechanical engineering at the Michigan Technological University on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

She took a three-week break from studying to visit the Sammy Centre earlier this year, having heard about the organization's work through her home church, Woodbury Lutheran.

Quite unexpectedly, Sabbann was given the opportunity to distribute the shoeboxes in May when they turned up late thanks to the hold-up in customs.

As a regular shoebox packer herself, Sabbann said she had always thought it would be wonderful to get to hand out the boxes, and couldn't believe her luck when the chance arose.

"It was humbling for me to see how excited the children were about the little things -- the pencils, the pens and the toothpaste," said Sabbann, adding she enjoyed explaining to the children what a yo-yo was and demonstrating how to use one.

"They thought it was fun -- a lot of these children don't really know what it's like to be a kid, because they are given such responsibility at such a young age...

"This is probably the only gift they will receive all year."

This week, Nov. 17-24, is national collection week for Operation Christmas Child.

If you have a packed shoebox you'd like to donate, drop it off at Woodbury Lutheran Church, 7380 Afton Road, Woodbury at the following times: Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 pm. or 4 to 6 p.m.; Saturday through Monday, Nov. 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.