Contributing reporter

While Christmas is only two months away, one North Riverside business has been hard at work preparing gifts for children in need all autumn long.

Since September, Mombo Hair Art Studio on 26th Street has been participating in Operation Christmas Child, a children’s gift drive that aims to deliver millions of shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, toiletries, clothing and other basic necessities to less fortunate children in countries across the world. 

Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian international relief organization based in North Carolina.

Caryn Caldarulo, owner of Mombo, decided to host the collection drive at her business after finding fulfillment from participating in the program on her own last year.

“It’s about teaching children that they’re loved,” Caldarulo said. “These shoeboxes have changed lives.”

While Caldarulo personally packaged 50 shoeboxes last holiday season, this year Caldarulo and her fiancé will personally be making 100 shoeboxes. Additionally, Caldarulo has set Mombo’s collection goal at 300 shoeboxes.

First, each donor decides whether they are making a shoebox for a boy or a girl and then choose clothing items, toys and other supplies for the boxes based on gender. Then, donors include a photo of themselves and a little note along with the box to personalize the gift and let the children know who is thinking about them.

To make the collection drive as convenient as possible, Caldarulo has developed a system for people to donate in a few different ways. People can drop off their own filled and wrapped shoeboxes; pick up a shoebox from Mombo, fill it up and drop it back off; or come into the store and make a $25 donation, which Caldarulo will then use to put together two shoeboxes, which will include cards with the donors’ names. 

Aside from the donation options, Mombo has also pledged to cover the $7 shipping fee per shoebox. Ideally, Caldarulo hopes to collect all shoeboxes by Monday, Nov. 17 in order to begin shipping them out by Nov. 24.

Overall, Caldarulo hopes that the collection drive will be a great way for adults to demonstrate to local children the importance of helping children in need and not taking what they have for granted during the holiday season.

“I think it’s important that children realize that there are kids that receive nothing [so] to get children involved and aware is really important to me,” she said. “It’s just important that people know that this is what it’s all about, and it’s not just Third World countries. We just all need to help one another, and it doesn’t have to be on a huge scale. We can do small things and enhance life in a huge way.”

For more information on how you can donate a shoebox towards Mombo’s Operation Christmas Child drive, contact Caldarulo at 708-447-5150 or visit Mombo the store at 7924 26th St. in North Riverside.