Ten thousand Christmas gifts, including 8,700 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, will be distributed today through Tuesday, Dec. 19, in what organizers are calling the largest holiday gift distribution ever held on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Wings as Eagles Ministries, in partnership with Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, begins the multi-site distribution at 6 p.m. today at Little Wound School in Kyle.
"We're so excited about this," Lori McAfee said. McAfee and her husband, Gary, have run the nondenominational Christian ministry and relief organization on various American Indian reservations for the past 11 years.
This year, Samaritan's Purse chose Wings as Eagles as the sole recipient of its entire 2006 allotment of shoebox gifts for Indian reservations, according to Reynard Faver, an Apache chief who serves as Native American ministries coordinator for Samaritan's Purse.
Samaritan's Purse and its partners will hand-deliver 7.8 million shoe-box gifts in 90 countries on six continents this Christmas season. It staggers its services to a different Indian reservation each year.
"We chose them because of the great need on the Pine Ridge, but also because they are a well-established, hands-on ministry with lots of personal contacts across the reservation," Faver said.
The McAfees have worked with the Northern Arapaho and Blackfeet tribes and have been on the Pine Ridge reservation for the past five years. They have been a Samaritan's Purse partner for four years and delivered 1,000 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes in 2005 by themselves.
Wings as Eagles, which takes its name from Isaiah 40:31 - "they shall mount up with wings as eagles ..." - hopes to build a multi-faceted ministry site on land it owns near Kyle. The first building of the project will be a 10,000-square-foot food-distribution center, McAfee said.
The sheer size of this year's gift distribution required extra help, and 48 volunteers from New York, Georgia and New Mexico showed up, including the Rev. David Tu and several members of his Long Island, N.Y., church. On Wednesday, the volunteers stayed busy packing gift bags of groceries and candy at the ministry's warehouse in Black Hawk.
The gift distribution includes enough nonperishable food items to fill a 30-foot trailer and another 90 boxes of new toys donated from churches in Tennessee and New York.
Elders will receive gift bags filled with blankets, clothing, toiletries and other personal items. Readers of the inspirational magazine Guideposts also donated four pallets of hand-knitted sweaters through its Guideposts Sweater Project.
All of the items will be given away at six distribution sites:
-- Little Wound School, Kyle, 6 p.m. today.
-- Billy Mills Hall, Pine Ridge, 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15.
-- Manderson School, Manderson, 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.
-- Loneman School, Oglala, 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.
-- Porcupine School, Porcupine, 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18.
-- Crazy Horse School, Wanblee, 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19.
For more information or to donate to Wings as Eagles Ministries, call 787-5474 or 1-800-403-1472.
Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8410 or email@example.com