Operation Christmas Child set to hand out its 200 millionth gift box this holiday season

Elizabeth Groff received a shoebox gift as a child in Ukraine — now she's helping other kids

Anyone can help other people in need this fall as we look ahead to the holiday season. And as people all over the world prepare to make or buy gifts for precious loved ones, Samaritan's Purse, the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid group, is anticipating an extraordinary marker of generosity toward other human beings this year.

It will collect and distribute its 200 millionth Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift this year.

That significant shoebox gift will be given out by a former shoebox recipient herself — Elizabeth Groff — who as a child years ago received a shoebox gift in Ukraine when she was just 11 years old and living in an orphanage. 


Now 28 years old, Groff will deliver the 200 millionth shoebox to a Ukrainian child next month, at a specific location yet to be determined.

Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan's Purse and of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told Fox News Digital in an email that he and his organizations first provided presents "for children in need during the Bosnian War in 1993." 

He said that Operation Christmas Child that year "collected about 11,000 shoeboxes."

Fast forward now to 2022, with vast operations since that time year after year, without fail — "and this year we are preparing to collect our 200 millionth shoebox," he said.

Rev. Graham also told Fox News Digital, "We couldn’t do this project without the churches and the tens of thousands of incredible volunteers who are involved across the country and around the world."

He said as well, "We are amazed by what God has done — and we thank Him for using these simple shoebox gifts to bless children and tell them that He loves and cares for them." 

A Christmas miracle 

"We can all be part of changing a child’s life simply by packing a shoebox full of fun, quality gifts," Elizabeth Groff told Fox News Digital in an emailed comment, noting in particular her amazing connection to these acts of generosity and thoughtfulness.

Operation Christmas Child

Elizabeth Groff lived in a Ukrainian orphanage as a child — and was eventually adopted by an American family. Today, she is giving out gifts to children all over the world through Operation Christmas Child. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

Such a gesture, she said, "may seem small — but it is powerful when delivered with a message of love and hope! It changed my life."

Groff added, "Eighteen years ago, a shoebox gift opened my heart to God’s word, and now I have the opportunity to personally demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to a Ukrainian child."

Elizabeth Groff as a child

Elizabeth Groff is shown at age 11, when she received a shoebox gift in Ukraine. That gift had a big impact on her life, she said. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

"We serve a faithful God," she said. "Being able to pack and deliver this special shoebox gift will be a highlight of my Christmas season."

Elizabeth Groff was born and raised in eastern Ukraine. She grew up in a broken family and wound up in an orphanage when she was only 7 years old. 

A young Elizabeth was captivated by the yellow yo-yo that was tucked inside her shoebox. 

She was devastated by tragedies in her family, Fox News Digital was told — and felt very much alone.

Elizabeth Groff, center

Elizabeth Groff (center, as a child, in blue jacket) was adopted by an American family; she's shown in this image with her adoptive family while still in Ukraine. Today she seeks to help others in similar circumstances. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

Yet while she was living in the orphanage, she received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift — and was captivated by the yellow yo-yo that was tucked inside her shoebox.

Because of that gift, she began to have hope that God would not leave her at rock bottom, she said — but that God would meet her there and become her family, as Samaritan's Purse told Fox News Digital about her story.

Elizabeth Groff at Virginia Tech

Elizabeth Groff (front, center), along with players, staff and fellow students at Virginia Tech University in 2015. She helped convince classmates to participate in Operation Christmas Child and lend a helping hand to others. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

She was later adopted into an American family. 

She grew and then attended Virginia Tech — and led her fellow students, even the football team — to pack shoeboxes on campus.

Elizabeth today lives in Texas.

Elizabeth Groff

Elizabeth Groff will hand out the 200 millionth shoebox gift this year from Operation Christmas Child. She herself received this remarkable gift of care as a child in Ukraine. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

The Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child project collects shoebox gifts filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items.

It then delivers them to children in need around the world "to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way," the organizations say.

Elizabeth Groff

Elizabeth Groff, a 2017 graduation of Virginia Tech, will this year give out the 200 millionth shoebox gift from Operation Christmas Child. (Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child / Fox News)

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, has collected and delivered more than 198 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 170 countries and territories, Samaritan's Purse told Fox News Digital about its work.

Operation Christmas Child began delivering shoeboxes to Ukraine in 1996. It began with 8,500 shoebox gifts there — and now the nonprofit group has distributed over 11.5 million in that country.


All told in 2022, the group expects to give out over 600,000 Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts — bringing the total to more than 12.2 million shoebox gifts distributed in Ukraine since 1996.

But well beyond just one country, Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts are collected in Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.


"Delivered into the hands of children through local churches, every shoebox gift is an opportunity to share about Jesus Christ and God's love," said Samaritan's Purse.

Anyone can learn more by going to www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.