FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – As efforts to help people in need this holiday season kick into high gear, people in Franklin County heard the life-changing impact of that work firsthand Tuesday.
Irina Creek spends her days sharing the work of Operation Christmas Child.
"When you pack a shoe box, you are a part of something so incredible," Creek said.
More than 10.6 million shoe boxes were distributed worldwide last year.
"Small toys, school supplies and hygiene products," said Penny Denny, area coordinator for Blue Ridge Virginia Operation Christmas Child.
Each box goes to a child in need who may not receive a gift otherwise.
"They shared one toothbrush between 10 girls," Denny said.
The stories hit home for Creek, who not long ago was one of those recipients.
"We were very, very poor," Creek said. "My parents were alcoholics and drug addicts. My mom left us at home one day and just never came back and actually, to this day, I don't know what happened to her."
Creek said she was sent to an orphanage in eastern Europe at just 5 years old, where she was abused until finally, there was a turning point.
"I was transferred to a different orphanage where I received an Operation Christmas Child shoe box and everything in my life began to change for the better," Creek said.
She received small gifts that gave her hope and faith.
"It was the only notebook I had my whole childhood that I could use for whatever I wanted," Creek said. "I prayed and asked boldly in faith that God of adoption would provide me with a family and he did."
Now she's on the other side of the shoe box, sharing her story with the people who made it possible, as she did Tuesday afternoon with the Franklin Heights Joy Club.
"As much as it was a highlight of my childhood to receive that precious gift, it doesn't compare to what I’m doing now in giving," Creek said.
She said her story is proving the power that can be packed into a small box and encouraging others to keep changing lives, as they did for her.
Operation Christmas Child will be collecting shoe boxes the third week of November.
Click here to find out how you can help.