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Union University fraternity helps with early Christmas gift for children despite damages

JACKSON, Tenn.Nov. 21, 2002 – When you look at the Alpha Tau Omega house on Union University’s Fraternity Row, it doesn’t appear in the greatest of shape. After severe winds from the tornados that ran through West Tennessee knocked a large tree down, hitting the house, the chapter’s home suffered extensive damage, creating a gaping hole in the roof, breaking windows, and bringing a lot of water into the interior.

Inside the house, couches remain littered with broken glass and heaped in a pile in one room. Where there was once a door, there is now only a piece of plywood nailed to the wall. Pictures have been taken down from the walls and now sit in stacks on a table. The hole in the roof is covered by a tarp, though a water-damaged spot continues to grow across the ceiling. Looking, however, across to the opposite side of the chapter’s meeting room – the main room of the house – brightly-colored red and green shoeboxes filled with children’s toys are stacked five feet high and three feet deep, covering the entire width of the wall.

The men of Alpha Tau Omega organize shoeboxes filled with toys and essential items for their Operation Christmas Child drive.

The men of Alpha Tau Omega organize shoeboxes filled with toys and essential items for their Operation Christmas Child drive.

Despite the damage suffered to their fraternity house, Union University students belonging to the Beta Tau chapter of Alpha Tau Omega are remaining committed to a special cause – making Christmas brighter for needy children through their work with Operation Christmas Child, a worldwide ministry that delivers shoeboxes filled with toys and essential items to needy children around the world which is a project of Samaritan’s Purse.

Last year the students collected more than 1,800 boxes in cooperation with area churches – this year the goal is at least 2,500.

“Even though our house is out of order, the importance and impact Operation Christmas Child can make remains the same,” said Union sophomore and Christian studies major Brian Curtis, who is social chair for the chapter and a native of Bowling Green, Ky.

Only in their second year helping with the Christmas ministry, the young men could easily have chosen to focus on repairing their house before the rapidly approaching end to the semester. All agreed, though, that their misfortune is minimal compared to what children are experiencing around the world.

“The tragedy that’s happened to us is nothing in comparison to what these children face on a day to day basis,” said Derek Jones, a junior from Houston, Texas who is majoring in family studies. “The poverty, the sickness and suffering they’re experiencing – even though we’ve had this disaster happen to us, we have so much we can still give. “

Covering all of West Tennessee, from Obion to Rutherford Counties, churches and individuals have been dropping off their shoe boxes at the LifeWay store located on Union’s campus. The ATO members are storing the boxes at their house until Saturday, when all of the gifts will be taken to a drop-off point in Memphis.

More than six million children on six continents will receive gift-filled shoe boxes this year as part of Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest children’s Christmas project. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has hand-delivered more than 18 million shoe box gifts via plane, boat, helicopter, even donkey and dog sled to children suffering from disease, war, terrorism, natural disaster, poverty, and famine.

“Operation Christmas Child is an amazing project I’m really glad to be a part of,” said Jones. “Just the fact that we can use these simple gift-filled shoeboxes to share the love of Christ at Christmas all around the world is just an incredible opportunity and we’re so thankful to Samaritan’s Purse for providing this chance to help.”

Curtis agrees.

“We’re committed to helping others in greater need than we are,” Curtis added. “A fraternity house isn’t much compared to how much these shoeboxes are helping children around the world. When you think about the number of times a simple shoebox leads to salvation because of the Christian literature that’s in each one and they’re all hand-delivered – that’s engrained in us as Union students, that as Christians we are to help people.

“As college students, we can’t give a lot but we all have shoe boxes.”

 

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11/18/02 - The men of Alpha Tau Omega organize shoeboxes filled with toys and essential items for their Operation Christmas Child drive.
11/18/02 - The men of Alpha Tau Omega organize shoeboxes filled with toys and essential items for their Operation Christmas Child drive. - Justin Veneman

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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