By Sherrie Norris
If you ever thought it was impossible to make a difference in the world from the comfort of your home, think again.
One of the easiest opportunities to impact the world — and especially, its children — is practically at your fingertips and at your front door.
By participating in the annual Operation Christmas Child Shoebox project, sponsored by the Boone-based ministry of Samaritans Purse, you might give a child the first gift he or she has ever received.
OCC is considered the world’s largest Christmas outreach of its kind, having delivered more than 168 million gift -filled shoeboxes to millions of children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters and other crisis in more than 160 countries and territories. Last year alone, more than 8.8 million shoeboxes were collected in the United States for distribution, with more than 10.6 worldwide.
In 2019, the project hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 11 million children.
“It is incredible to see the difference a simple shoebox gift can make in the life of a child,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “There’s nothing like seeing how one gift can impact the eternal destiny of a child.”
The week of November 18-25 serves as the official collection period, but it’s year-round effort at the Boone-based headquarters of the Christian international relief organization.
Shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child have been lovingly and prayerfully packed by countless individuals, families, churches and community organizations since 1993 — bringing smiles and tears of joy to children in every corner of the world.
Testimonies are shared on a regular basis from some of the recipients whose lives, and those of their family, have been transformed from a simple shoebox and the good news of Jesus Christ that it represents.
This time every year, volunteers are rallying to not only fill their shoeboxes, but to help out at thousands of collection sites around the world. In fact, nearly 500,000 volunteers worldwide — with more than 150,000 in the U.S. — are involved in collecting, shipping and distributing shoebox gifts.
Hundreds of volunteers will be coming to Boone in the next few weeks to prepare the boxes for shipment, something that has become an annual tradition for many individuals, families, church groups and civic organizations.
There are currently volunteer opportunities available at the local processing center, as well as a few seasonal employment spots, for those who might want to join the fun.
If you don’t have extra time to volunteer at the center, you still can fill an empty shoebox with those “little” things that make children smile, wrap it up and get it delivered to one of the following local collection sites in the coming week: Samaritan’s Purse Processing Center, 801 Bamboo Road in Boone, Brushy Fork Baptist Church, 3915 US Hwy, Vilas, West Jefferson First Baptist Church, 8-E Second St. in West Jefferson and Oak Grove Baptist Church, 1790 Millers Gap Hwy, Newland. (Hours of collection may vary, so call before you go.)
These are among the thousands across the world, as part of the eight major processing centers in the US, which includes the one in Boone, Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, DC, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Chicago and Fullerton, California.
For some children, the boxes do not just come at Christmas, but also anytime disaster strikes around the world.
The boxes are loaded onto some of the world’s largest cargo planes, trucks, and sea containers bound for the far reaches of the earth. Samaritan’s Purse teams and partners then transport them by truck, bus, train, helicopter, boat, foot, dog sled, camel and even mule to hand-deliver the gifts to hurting children.
Those who have helped deliver shoeboxes know and tell us each year, how these gifts bring unspeakable joy to precious children who would otherwise have had nothing to call their own.
In addition to hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ before they receive their shoebox gift, children also receive “The Greatest Gift,” a storybook that shares the message of salvation. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Scripture stories and invites children to follow Christ. Children take this home to share with family and friends. It is used in more than 80 languages.
After receiving shoebox gifts, many children are invited back to participate in our discipleship program, The Greatest Journey. Through this 12-lesson course, which includes Bible stories and scripture memorization, they learn how to follow Christ in their daily lives as they share Him with friends and family. More than 14.9 million children have enrolled in this program since 2009.
After completing The Greatest Journey, children attend a graduation celebration, receive a certificate and are given a Bible that includes the New Testament and selected Old Testament stories, along with a dictionary of Biblical terms and a map of Bible lands. Complete with illustrations, it is often the first copy of God’s Word the child, or their family, will own. Family and friends who attend the ceremony hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearing the Good News and testimonies during their loved one’s graduation reinforces the changes they have seen in the students’ lives, and their families often come to faith in Christ.
So what’s to stop you from making a difference? It’s a very simple process.
How to pack your box:
- Find an empty shoebox and wrap it with lid wrapped separately –but wrapping is not required. You may also use containers provided by Samaritan’s Purse, as well labels from one of the OCC brochures (available at Samaritan’s Purse or at a local church), tape it on the top of your box and mark the gender and age category appropriate for items you have to go into the box. (Boy or a girl ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.)
What To Include:
- Fill the box with a variety of gifts using the list below as a guide.
- Start with a quality “wow” item that will capture the child’s attention the instant he or she opens the box. Ideas include: Soccer ball with pump, stuffed animal, toys (puppets, trucks, etc.), doll (baby, Barbie, etc.), musical instrument, clothes, shoes, etc.
- School supplies: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.
- Non-liquid hygiene items: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.
- Accessories: T-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.
- Crafts: Make your own items such as hair bows, finger puppets, and friendship bracelets.
Do Not Include
- Used or damaged items.
- War-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures.
- Food or candy.
- Liquids, lotions or toothpaste.
- Medications or vitamins.
- Breakable items, such as snow globes or glass containers.
- Aerosol cans.
In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. It is quite possible that you will hear back from the recipient of your gift, if you include your name and address.
- Please enclose a check for $9 or more in the envelope attached to the brochure and put it inside your box to help cover shipping and other costs. Checks made payable to Samaritan’s Purse are recommended. If you are packing more than one box, you can make one combined donation in a single envelope. Place the envelope on top of the gift items in the box so it can be easily seen. Then place a rubber band around your box.
Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through Follow Your Box and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Participants 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. Return to your church or take to the the nearest collection center:
Don’t miss your opportunity to bring cheer to a young life with little hope.
Remember, also, to pray for the boy or girl who will receive your shoe box. Through the power of a simple gift, you can bless a child’s life—and make a world of difference.”
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
For more information about OCC, to volunteer or inquire about seasonal job opportunities still available, contact Samaritan’s Purse at (828) 262-1980 or 1-800-353-5949, visit samaritanspurse.org, or follow on Facebook.