Six area churches recently participated in Operation Christmas Child’s Christmas Shoeboxes initiative, which is geared to making the holidays a little nicer for children all over the world.
A project of the international Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, Operation Christmas Child sends gift-filled shoe boxes to millions of children in need each year.
Partnering with local churches, the year-round project sends shoe boxes full of school supplies, toys and hygiene items to children suffering from poverty, natural disaster, war, terror, disease and famine.
For many of these children, the gift box will be the first gift they’ve ever received.
Locally, the Greater Team Ministries – a charge consisting of United Methodist Churches from Jefferson, Rices Landing, Fredericktown, Denbo, Howe and Roscoe – started collecting shoeboxes in 2010, and during the first year 62 boxes were filled. Each year since, team members have increased the number of filled shoeboxes.
“Our six churches continue to work together with a common goal that helps to make each year more successful,” said Susan Christopher, missions committee chair from Waynesburg.
The team’s goal this year was 366 shoeboxes plus any filled shoeboxes that individuals would choose to do on their own. The goal was reached … and then some.
“God is good. Not only did we fill our 366 boxes but we also had 34 filled boxes donated,” she said. “That brought our total number of completed boxes to 400.”
Each packed shoebox included school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, school scissors and more, as well as hygiene items such as soap, wash cloths and toothbrushes and toys such as stuffed animals, cars and coloring books, as well as numerous other items.
“We had several people come and help out by opening packages and organizing items throughout the year,” Christopher said.
The completed boxes were prominently displayed in the Jefferson United Methodist Church Nov. 14, and were then loaded into two vans to be delivered to Waynesburg Nov. 15.
The shoeboxes were dropped off at the First Church of the Nazarene in Waynesburg, and volunteers then boxed everything up and loaded them onto trucks that will deliver them to a volunteer processing center.
The boxes are then sealed with tape and placed on pallets ready to ship to children all over the world. In many places, they also offer “The Greatest Gift,” a Gospel story booklet Samaritan’s Purse developed for shoebox recipients so they can learn about God and his love for everyone.