By Sherrie Norris
A few million shoeboxes filled with a few simple items — and a lot of love —will have a huge impact upon children around the world in coming months as Operation Christmas Child kicks off this week at the Boone-based headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse.
While Nov. 15-22 is the official collection week for these boxes, countless Individuals, families, churches and civic groups have been collecting items throughout the year, and filling shoeboxes with small gifts and toiletries in preparation for what is considered the world’s largest annual Christmas project.
The boxes are delivered to the Boone location, or at other designated collection and processing centers throughout the country, where they are then inspected, properly packaged and ready for transport to nearly every corner of the world affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine.
In fact, tens of thousands of volunteers serve annually at eight shoebox processing centers across the United States.
Staff and volunteers will, in turn, distribute the colorfully wrapped packages to children —many of whom have never before had something to call their own, and certainly have never received a Christmas gift.
It’s a very simple process for those wishing to spread a bit of sunshine to youngsters with little hope.
Obtain a shoebox, either one provided by SP, or one of your own covered in colorful wrapping, fill with a safe/recommended toy items, and return to a designated location.
A revised list of suggested/approved items include: playing cards, batteries (in original packaging or with both ends taped), wet wipes or plain alcohol wipes, toy spiders/bugs/snakes, superheroes or other licensed characters, items with company logos, scissors, glow sticks, compact mirrors, lip balm (non-medicated), play dough (store bought), solid stick deodorant, makeup (non-liquid), adhesive bandages (non-medicated), disposable or reusable feminine hygiene products, eating utensils, marbles, Bibles or other religious literature or symbols.
Please, do not include the following: Candy, toothpaste; gum; used or damaged items; scary or war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items, such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.
The shoebox gifts should include a personal note and picture of your family, if you so choose. Each box should have adhesive labels placed on top of the box, found on brochures provided by the organization and available at most churches and community centers, which identify gender and age of child for whom the gifts are most suited. A donation of $9 tucked inside a label envelope is critical to cover shipping and project related expenses.
Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization led by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and, together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The shoebox program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years later, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing the organization to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 188 million children in more than 170 countries and territories.
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child locally, call 828-262-1980 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.