Operation Christmas Child is a part of Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based nonprofit evangelical organization.
Groups contribute to the project each year by packing shoeboxes with toys, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, pencils, crayons, T-shirts, toiletries and anything small enough to fit into a shoebox.
“Hard candy is OK, but no chocolate, since it will melt in shipment,” said Gloria North, one of the collection captains. “These shoeboxes are gathered and shipped out to war-torn countries all over the world.”
“Carroll County contributed 3,271 shoeboxes last year, and our goal this year is 3,300,” said Dan Dockery, association missionary at Carrollton Baptist Association. “We’ll receive boxes beginning Nov. 12 and continue through Nov. 18.”
Collection times at the association office, at 736 Stewart St., Carrollton, will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to noon on Friday; 9-11 a.m. Saturday; and 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Volunteers will be there during those hours to receive the boxes.
The shoeboxes are put into larger boxes for shipment to Newnan, the main collection center in this area.
“The Furniture House hauls the boxes for us to Newnan,” he said. “They are shipped from there to a warehouse in Atlanta, and then around the world.”
At Oak Grove Baptist Church Wednesday night, children were busy packing the red and green boxes. Some put their pictures in the boxes and write notes to the recipients.
“They often hear from the people who receive the boxes,” North said.
North said the shoeboxes vary in size and decorations.
“You can use an ordinary shoebox and decorate it with paper,” she said. “Some children buy the plastic shoeboxes from dollar stores and decorate them with stickers.”
North said the project begins at many churches as early as January, when members start bringing in small toys and other gifts. Toys are for children ages of 2 to 14. Most toys are OK, but they should not include any war-type toys, such as toy soldiers or guns, she added.
Other items not wanted include out-of-date foods, chocolates, liquids, lotions, medications, vitamins, breakable items and aerosol cans.
“The toys are put on the shelf and by the end of October the children can go around and pack the boxes,” North said.
She said any type of toys popular with children here would be enjoyable for children in overseas countries.
After Nov. 19, donors can still pack a shoe box for donation by using the “Build a Box” online tool on the organization’s website, www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/pages/how-pack-your-box.
The organization offers the following guidelines for people interested in putting together a donation shoebox:
• Use an empty shoebox or small plastic container about the same size, wrapping the box lid, if desired.
• Determine whether the gift is for a boy or girl, and choose an age category — 2-4 years, 5-9 or 10-14, printing a label with this information from the download site.
• Fill the box with a variety of gifts, using gift ideas provided on the above website.
• A donation of $7 is sought for each shoebox to help cover shipping and other project costs.
• Put a rubber band around the closed shoebox and drop it off at a collection site. After Nov. 19, it can be mailed to: Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, NC 28607.
Operation Christmas Child began nationally in 1993 and is the world’s largest child Christmas assistance program, reaching about eight million children each year. Since its founding, it has shipped 86 million shoeboxes to more than 130 countries. About 140,000 volunteers in the U.S. and 500,000 worldwide participate in the program.
Samaritan’s Purse was founded in 1970 by missionary Bob Pierce, who first became interested in charity work after he visited suffering children on the Korean island of Kojedo, following World War II.
In the summer of 1973, Pierce met with Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, who at the time was an adventurous young student with a growing heart for world missions. Pierce died of leukemia in 1978, and a year later, Graham became the president and chairman of the board of Samaritan’s Purse.
Franklin has since led the ministry through 30 years of earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, poverty and famine.
Franklin wrote a book about his experiences with Operation Christmas Child, titled “Miracle in a Shoe Box: A Christmas Gift of Wonder,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc., 1995. The book is now out of print, but is still available from many used book stores.