CRU leader brings Operation Christmas Child to RIT

Student Spotlight
Kara Johnson, third-year business management

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Kara Johnson, CRU member, with Operation Christmas Child staff and volunteers, Joel Slesak, Melissa Johnson, Pat Slesak and Anne Clements.

Kara Johnson, a third-year business management student, planned CRU’s first packing party for an international nonprofit organization, Operation Christmas Child. The organization provides hygiene items, school supplies and toys to needy children around the world. Johnson, CRU community team leader, coordinated shopping trips, inventoried all the donations in her house and organized the packing party. More than 50 students and volunteers helped put together 200 shoeboxes at the party last Friday.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: A big factor was the co-op program. I also want to start my own business so having the ability to partner with engineering and computer science students on projects is a real bonus.

Q: Why did you choose to major in business management?
A: When I first came to RIT, I was an accounting major but decided it wasn’t right for me because I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day. I always knew I wanted to be a business owner so I thought business management would be a good place to start.

Q: How did you get involved with CRU?
A: I grew up in a Christian home and my faith is the priority of my life so when I came to RIT I checked out the various Christian groups. I chose CRU because everyone was so welcoming. I jumped right in my freshman year.

Q: What is CRU’s mission?
A: CRU is a caring community passionate about connecting people to Christ. During the week, we have our main group meeting. We also have a men’s group, women’s group and freshmen group where we do bible discussions. On the weekends we have a lot of different fun events like going to a park or watching a movie. Before this semester, we really didn’t have community service events so I joined the community team and planned our first large event, Operation Christmas Child.

Q: What is Operation Christmas Child?
A: It’s an opportunity for people to pack shoeboxes with hygiene items, school supplies and toys. Nine countries participate in the operation. The shoeboxes are sent through Samaritan’s Purse, the organization in charge of the program, to children all around the world who wouldn’t have these items otherwise. The children are also presented with the good new of the gospel and given the opportunity to take part in a 12-week discipleship program. Since 1993, more than 124 million children have received a shoebox gift.

Q: How did CRU collect items?
A: We coordinated shopping trips and set up three collection boxes on campus. We had enough items to pack 200 shoeboxes. After talking with volunteers for the Rochester area, I only expected to pack 50 shoeboxes. I underestimated the generosity of the students and help from the other two Christian groups, InterVarsity and Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Q: What items are in each shoebox?
A: In every shoebox we packed hygiene items like a toothbrush, soap, washcloth and hairbrush. We also put in pens, pencils, a notebook and eraser. Beyond the essential items, we tried to include coloring books, crayons and a wow item like a soccer ball or stuffed animal.

Q: How are the shoeboxes delivered to children?
A: Once you pack the shoeboxes, you deliver them to a local drop-off location. During the third week of November, more than 4,000 churches across the nation open their doors to collect the shoeboxes. The drop-off location ships all of the shoeboxes to a processing center where volunteers sort through them. From there, Samaritan’s Purse ships them to be delivered to children in more than 100 different countries.

Q: What did you learn from the experience?
A: The project really taught me to trust in God because it was a huge undertaking. To see how he provided all the volunteers and donated items was an awesome learning experience.

Q: Why is it important to participate in community service?
A: As a Christian, we are called to love and serve God and to love and serve other people. Being able to reach children in need is a huge way to fulfill that. Personally I have discovered my joy comes from helping other people.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories at RIT so far?
A: This semester I’m working with a health and access technology business program. My team is working on creating a new walker design that can be used more effectively outside. I’m doing all the business research and excited to see how the product will benefit other people.

Traci Turner compiles “Student Spotlight” for University News. Contact her at with suggestions.