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Twins' tiny gifts add up to great joy

December 14, 1998

Editor's note: For these 12 days before Christmas, we will be recognizing individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others. This is the third in the series.




Twins tiny giftsBy RICHARD F, BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

STAFF PHOTO




MONT ALTO, Pa. - For twins Loretta Tharp and Lorrie Smedley, the spirit of Christmas fits in a shoe box.

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For the past four years, the sisters have collected and filled shoe boxes with small toys, toiletries and other items. Then they ship the boxes to Operation Christmas Child, a collection effort run by Samaritan's Purse, a nonprofit Christian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.

Typical boxes for young children hold baby clothes, bibs, blankets, and baby powder. Boxes for older children contain toys, games, pencil and crayon sets, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste and lollipops.

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Last year 1.6 million gaily wrapped shoe boxes filled with gifts were sent to needy youngsters in the U.S. and in more than 40 countries.

The twins, 44, put together a couple of boxes four years ago. The second year they assembled 335 boxes, including some filled with gifts donated by other people. Last year the number grew to 728 and this year, as word got around, the project exploded.

"You wouldn't believe it. We got 1,720 shoe boxes. There was enough to fill six vans and 95 percent of them were already filled and wrapped," Smedley said.

The women run the shoe box project out of Twins Timeless Treasures, their gift and collectibles shop at 7255 Slabtown Road.

"We're already getting started on next year. We're going to do even more," Tharp said.

The women said they will designate additional collection points and assign helpers. They've asked residents of a retirement center to wrap shoe boxes next year.

"We grew up simple on a farm without a lot, but our parents always made Christmas special. We were kind of poor, but we had a strong, secure family," Smedley said.

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