PINEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — One local church and a man from Ukraine came together to collect gifts for kids and to honor a woman who helped start it all.

Vladimir Proknevski received a gift box as a teenager in Ukraine thanks to the efforts of a woman from Wyoming County, Mary Damron.

In 1993 Franklin Graham started Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse sending shoe box gifts to kids in war-torn Bosnia. The next year Damron wanted to help, so she collected over one thousand gift boxes and delivered them to Boone, NC herself to be distributed to those kids in need and became the national spokesperson for Operation Christmas Child.

In the late 90s, Proknevski received a gift box due to the efforts of Damron and wanted to come to West Virginia to honor her and to stress the importance of giving to kids in need around the world.

Cook Memorial Baptist Church in Pineville hosted the event and has pledged to collect one thousand two hundred fifty-six boxes. The exact number Mary collected in 1994.

Mary’s daughter says her mother is recovering from Cancer and could not be in attendance but the efforts of her mother to send gifts to kids is a labor of love.

“You know it, to me I was jokingly saying Mary’s like the Elvis Presley of OCC. I mean, she’s done so much and it still hasn’t sunk in fully that I got to hang out with her daughter and got to be in the area where this all started,” said Proknevski.

“As a young teenager at a vulnerable age in 94, my mom’s compassion. Even then, I noticed it I probably didn’t come full circle to that same compassion to in my 20s, but yet all through life I’ve done shoeboxes,” said Alisha Brown, Damron’s daughter.

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