Don’t forget to pack those shoeboxes
By Lacey McMath
No matter where you fall on the “Christmas before Thanksgiving” argument, Operation Christmas Child has to get you in the holiday mood. Even the most staunchly opposed to Jingle Bells before turkey will find themselves cheerfully humming along to Christmas music as they pack their brightly colored green and red shoeboxes this week.
Operation Christmas Child, a project by Samaritan’s Purse, has been going on since 1993 and has sent hundreds of millions of shoeboxes around the world. The goal is simple: get a shoebox full of necessities and fun items, along with the message of the Gospel, into the hands of kids who otherwise will not have a Christmas in countries around the world.
This week – the third one in November – is National Collection Week, when people all over the country collect shoeboxes packed with toiletries, school supplies, small clothing items, and toys for kids around the world. The shoeboxes are gathered at collection centers and then shipped via semi trucks to large distribution centers, where they go through a rigorous sorting process to make sure they will, in fact, make it to the country for which they are intended. Unacceptable items are removed and literature that teaches the Gospel is added, as the hope is not only that a young child will receive a box of special gifts but also learn to know Jesus Christ through the experience.
Boxes are then sent through every means you can imagine to reach a child in an underdeveloped country. Airplanes, ships, rafts, motorbikes, camels, donkeys, elephants and oxen are just a few examples of the methods of transportation put to use when a load of shoeboxes gets delivered. Children gather in cities, towns, and villages around the world to receive their box… for many of them, the first gift they’ll ever be given.
So how can you get involved? It’s quite simple; pack a shoebox and drop it off at a local collection center. Find a box at your house or purchase an inexpensive plastic one at the store, just make sure to find something sturdy as these boxes are typically used to store a young child’s treasures for years to come. Or you can swing by Grace Fellowship and pick up one of the standardized OCC boxes that are available.
Next, you decide who you are packing for. There are three different age groups to choose from, and you can select either a boy or a girl. Then you simply fill your box. Basic toiletries, school supplies, small clothing items, and toys are the building blocks for your box. Don’t forget your “wow item”, though; something a little extra exciting. Examples include a soccer ball (you can purchase them deflated with a small pump), a stuffed animal, or a small musical instrument. A short note and maybe a picture of yourself are bonuses, something the kids love so they know who sent them their gift.
There are a few rules to follow; no liquids or gels (including toothpaste), no candy, no toys pertaining to war, and no glass or aerosol are a few of the items that cannot go in a box.
Grace Fellowship is Atmore’s main drop-off site, so take your box by there sometime this week and leave it in the hands of a volunteer who will see it shipped on to its next stop; Atlanta, where more volunteers will approve the contents and get it ready to move on to a child somewhere in the world. It costs $9 to ship any shoebox, so make sure you bring that along. You can even go online to print a label for your box, pay with a credit card, and receive a tracking number so that you can see in what country your gifts will end up.
To drop off a box here in Atmore, please take them to Grace Fellowship (1412 E. Nashville Avenue) any time during these hours:
November 18-22: 1:00-3:00 pm
November 23: 9:00-11:00 am
November 24: 12:00-2:00 pm
November 25: 8:00-10:00 am
Additionally, there is an OCC Shoebox Packing Party held at Grace Fellowship this Wednesday night, November 20 at 6:00 pm. Shoeboxes and packing supplies will be provided.