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Monke: Giving gifts that will be appreciated

We stood in the Kmart toy department for about 30 minutes, looking for gift ideas. The shopping took time because there were certain toys we knew we couldn’t buy.

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We didn’t want any that required batteries, they couldn’t have any liquid or slime inside, nor could there be a chance the toy would easily break. The toys also couldn’t have any kind of military or violence aspect to it — so superhero action figures, which I naturally gravitated toward, were out of the conversation.

Dustin Monke

Then again, we assured ourselves, the kids receiving these toys aren’t going to be as picky as the kids we know might be. Many of them would be happy just to receive a toy. Heck, just receiving a pack of crayons could be one the happiest moments of their young lives.

Last Sunday, my fiancée, Sarah, and I spent about 90 minutes shopping for toys, toiletries and school supplies to pack inside of shoeboxes to be included in the Operation Christmas Child project taking place at our church, St. John Lutheran in Dickinson.

The shoeboxes will be sent to children — many of whom have never received a gift, let alone a Christmas present — in Kenya, India, Madagascar and Zambia.

In America, our toys are huge. Most don’t fit in shoeboxes. Many are also electronic or need batteries to operate, and those aren’t plentiful in third-world nations. We walked out of Kmart that day with one conclusion: Americans are spoiled and we don’t even realize it.

Sarah and I were able to fit at least a dozen items into each of the four shoeboxes we packed. They weren’t fancy gifts, but we know they’ll be appreciated by the children who will receive them.

As of Thursday afternoon, the church had collected about 860 boxes from throughout the area. Jodeen Myers, program secretary at St. John and organizer of the project, said she is hoping the church can gather 1,200 shoeboxes this year, which would surpass the record 1,103 the church received last year.

“If we don’t, 900 little kids are still going to get a gift,” she said. “We’ll see what happens, but it’s just a great outreach. I really enjoy doing it.”

So did Sarah and I. It’s truly enlightening to put your hands on a pack of crayons, a bar of soap, a toothbrush or a yo-yo and realize there are millions of children throughout the world who may have never had any of those things but soon will because of you.

Myers said some children will try to pick one item from the shoeboxes before they’re told the whole box is for them.

The Operation Christmas Child project continues through Monday morning in Dickinson. Shoeboxes can be picked up at St. John Lutheran today through Sunday and can be dropped off each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. No boxes will be accepted later than 10:30 a.m. Monday.

I wholeheartedly recommend everyone picks up a box or two and buys a few small gifts for some children on the other side of the world who may never have had one. Heck, even “Duck Dynasty” star Uncle Si is doing it — that’s how you know it’s a good idea.

For more information on what items can go inside Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, contact Myers at 701-225-6747.

Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at, tweet him at monkebusiness, and read his past features and columns at

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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