Twelve representatives of the Eta Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Coffeyville Community College spent their Thanksgiving vacation volunteering at the Denver international processing center of Operation Christmas Child. Volunteering with OCC, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, is an annual Eta Gamma Chapter tradition and one of the chapter's major service projects. Gift-filled shoe boxes are sent to children in remote and extremely poverty-stricken areas of the world who would otherwise have no Christmas. The local college was sponsor of fifty-six shoe boxes while the local First Presbyterian Church sponsored another 123 boxes which this year were designated for children in Mexico.
Officials with Operation Christmas Child anticipated that 730,000 shoe boxes would be processed at the Denver Processing Center this year with more than 8,500 volunteers working in the processing center during the holiday season. The CCC students worked shifts on November 22 and 24. The first day the processing center was open, 43,000 boxes were inspected to remove unsuitable items such as liquids and breakables.
In route to Denver on November 21, the group stopped at Victoria, Kansas to tour the beautiful St. Fidelis Church, otherwise known as the Cathedral of the Plains. The church has seating for 1,100 which was the largest church west of the Mississippi River at the time of its dedication in 1911. The exterior is constructed of large native limestone blocks weighing from 50 to 100 pounds. The Romanesque designed church contains German windows and works of art with Austrian hand carved stations of the cross and an Italian alter. In 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation selected the Cathedral of the Plains as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.
The return trip found the CCC group stopping at Nicodemus, Kansas, to learn the history of the first all black settlement west of the Mississippi River. The students were met by historian Angela Bates, who showed them a video on the history of Nicodemus and then presented a program highlighting the early settlers' journey from Kentucky to Kansas. The students also saw several of the original structures including a dug-out house.
Additional activities included a Thanksgiving dinner at Silver Thorn, skiing and snow boarding at Loveland Basin, the Cherry Creek Mall, a drive through downtown Denver to view the beautiful holiday lights, and a visit to the Victorian mining town of Georgetown. Participating in the international service project were: Caitlin Caldwell, Caitlynn Stevenson, Katlin Perkings, Anjanea Gunby, Jesus Medina, Dillon Van Hensburg, Nathan Wells, Justice Mustaine, Adrian Ensaldo, and Harlene Alford.