Volunteers Monday put the finishing touches on an effort to help children around the world share in the joys of Christmas.
First Baptist Church in Leitchfield served as a drop-off spot for boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Individuals, schools, businesses and churches were asked to fill empty shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and other items for needy children in other countries.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham. It is designed to let children know — through the power of a simple gift and the message of hope through Jesus Christ — that they are loved and not forgotten.
Stephanie Zurmehly, who coordinates the local drive, said more than 900 boxes were collected locally this year, up from 700 in 2011.
Participants are asked to pack a box with age- and gender-appropriate items for kids in three age categories: 2 to 4, 5 to 9, and 10 to 14. They’re also asked to donate $7 to help cover the cost of shipping the boxes.
People started dropping off boxes Nov. 12, Zurmehly said. On Monday afternoon, they were picked up and taken via truck to Bowling Green. From there they’ll be shipped to Atlanta, where they will be checked to make sure their contents are safe and age appropriate.
The boxes will be repackaged and sent for distribution to children in more than 100 countries, using whatever means necessary—trains, airplanes, boats, bikes and even elephants— to get them into the kids’ hands. A story about the life of Jesus — writen in the child’s native language — is included in each box, Zurmehly said.
“Leitchfield residents should know they really can change the lives of children around the world with a simple gift,” said Amy Johnson, Mid-South regional director for Operation Christmas Child. “For children living in extreme conditions, these boxes let them know that they are loved and not forgotten and that there is hope for their situation.”
In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone—collecting and delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since the project began in 1993.
Zurmehly said the local project, which she’s headed for six years, is “a lot of work.”
“Our job is to make sure the boxes are packed properly for shipment,” she said, explaining each individual shoebox must be secured that then packed into shipping boxes.
While donations for this year’s Operation Christmas Child have wrapped up, people can still volunteer for prayer mobilization and other activites to support the program. For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child call (615) 778-0046 or visit www.SamaritansPurse.org/OCC. Collecting for the 2013 shipments will begin in late October and early November 2013.