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ATC employee sends gift boxes to children around the world

The children are excited to send their shoeboxes filled with gifts and personal care items to other children around the world.

About 15 years ago, American Transmission Co. employee Alan Flater and his wife watched as their children opened a seemingly unending pile of Christmas presents. The gifts multiplied with every visit to another family gathering. The true meaning of Christmas was getting lost in a sea of discarded wrapping paper.

“At Christmastime we were finding that there were too many gifts being given, so we decided we could do something different,” said Flater, consultant economist at ATC and father of eight.

With the kids on board, Flater and his wife’s extended family started a new holiday tradition – buying, packing and shipping gifts and personal care items to children in need around the world through Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

Throughout the year, Flater’s family hunts for deals on items such as soap, wash cloths, school supplies, knick-knacks, tools, toys and other items. Then at their annual Thanksgiving celebration, about 50 people gather in the basement and form an assembly line to sort the items by age and gender into shoeboxes.

The family members sort items and assemble the shoeboxes.

The group often adds family photos and notes along with their addresses, in case the children want to write back to them. Flater has received a thank you letter from a pastor on behalf of the children in his congregation in Zambia. Other family members have received similar letters of thanks.

This year, the family stuffed, assembled and covered the cost of shipping for 136 boxes. For the last 15 years, they have sent about 150 boxes per year. That means they have touched the lives of more than 2,200 children around the world.

The truck is filled with boxes ready to be shipped.

For Flater, his wife, and children ages 12-30, the tradition has helped them focus on their faith and spending valuable time together throughout the season, with minimal gift exchanges.

“Giving amongst us has been way toned down,” he said. “When we look around and see how much stuff we have and how little stuff others have – we’ve got enough. If we can do a little thing for other people, we decided that was worth it.”