Local leaders safely continue global Operation Christmas Child project
Community members and local organizations are finding a way to continue efforts to make a global impact during this holiday season with Operation Christmas Child. People can fill shoeboxes with gifts of various items to be collected during National Collection Week, Nov. 15 through 23. The boxes are then shipped to children in need all over the world.
Donors can pick up Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and other supplies like box labels at participating churches, organizations or local businesses, like Roseburg’s Red Robin and Java Run or at the central location for the area at Roseburg Christian Fellowship’s Youth Campus on 1313 NE Cedar St. in Roseburg. Regular, sturdy cardboard shoeboxes can be used, but similarly sized plastic boxes are more durable and can be used by children for other purposes.
Shoebox gifts are packed with a standout “wow” item like a soccer ball or stuffed animal and then other small toys, clothes, school supplies and hygiene items. Those shoeboxes and a $9 donation each for shipping are taken to a local participating church or business then sent from a drop-off center to the children aged 2 to 14 via planes, trucks, boats or even, eventually, bicycles or camels.
Operation Christmas Child gives the boxes to children who are in need in places like orphanages, refugee camps, areas of natural disasters and remote villages in more than 160 countries. The boxes are delivered by volunteers and local leaders along with information about Christianity with “The Greatest Gift” booklets in areas where that information is allowed. In certain regions, a free discipleship program called “The Greatest Journey” is offered by local leaders.
Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian non-profit organization based out of North Carolina, U.S. which provides international aid and relief, has overseen the project as part of its relief efforts since 1993.
“It is a great ministry to reach children around the world who are in need and to share the gospel of Jesus,” Wayne Davis, the volunteer area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in the South-Central Oregon area, said. The South-Central area includes Douglas, Coos and Curry counties. Davis, with wife Terrie Davis, oversees the collection of shoeboxes and leads the year-round team of volunteers. “Last year in the United States 9.2 million shoeboxes were sent out to children, and the worldwide total for last year was more than 11 million shoeboxes sent to children who live in more than 105 countries. It is a huge impact and the largest project of its kind in the world.”
Shoebox drop-off locations are taking extra precautions this year under the direction of both local guidelines and those set by Samaritan’s Purse to ensure the safety and comfort of volunteers and donors in light of COVID-19.
At the central drop-off center, donors will now participate in curbside drop-off where information will be taken by and boxes will be unloaded onto carts by volunteers outside. All volunteers free of any symptoms for 14 days will be provided personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, and the boxes will be sealed and stored in protective cartons in the time before shipment, according to Davis.
“We want to make sure that our donors bringing in the shoeboxes and also our volunteers who work at our drop-off locations are kept safe and feel safe during this time,” Davis said.
For those who do not wish to visit a drop-off center but still want to participate in the project, there is the opportunity to build a shoebox online where for $25 a donor can choose the kinds of items to go in the shoebox with a personalized note and photo which will then be curated by an Operation Christmas Child distribution center directly.
Donors can also donate supplies to churches or other community groups for them to use in building shoeboxes with “packing parties.” These groups’ efforts allow people to come together to build boxes with donated items. While some have cancelled their events this year, other churches and groups continue on with the events though with less participants and protective measures like staggered times, social distancing and face masks.
Judy McClanahan, the Operation Christmas Child coordinator for The Father’s House in Sutherlin, gathers donations and organizes the yearly packing party, taking place on Nov. 19 at 10:30a.m. She feels these opportunities are important for those who may not have the money to create a box themselves: “With everything that is going on in the world and with people being out of work, we may not end up doing as many boxes this year. Still, people do not need to bring anything because we have donations, so anyone is able to participate. People can just come and have fun.”
Although Davis says the area’s volunteer team is still missing a student relations coordinator to work with high schools and colleges, there are connections between Operation Christmas Child and UCC through students who pack shoeboxes each year.
“My favorite part of participating would have to be going and buying everything that is needed for the shoebox,” said Kacy Buxton, a UCC student working toward an Associate of Science Oregon Transfer degree in Computer Science who has participated in the project with her family since she was three. “It can be a very fun time finding small toys to add to the shoeboxes. After that I would say my favorite part would be putting the boxes together, as its really cool to just see it all come together.”
According to Buxton, it is a blessing to have the opportunity to make both a global impact and an impact on the life of even just one child.
Ron Bolt knows well of the impact of Operation Christmas Child. As the Operation Christmas Child Project Leader for Roseburg Christian Fellowship, Bolt has not only overseen involvement with his church and community, but as a writer, he has also met with individuals who received boxes and interviewed them. According to Bolt, one such participant was a former refugee on the run who received a box while in a camp in Lebanon from a girl from Ohio. The young refugee, Nanor, was so moved by the gift that she kept the box and its contents, particularly a cherished Barbie doll, for many years. Nanor met Bolt about 20 years later in 2016 when she was teaching high school classes in California, and she still had her box.
“I didn’t really realize the impact when I first got involved, but this is more than something that makes me feel good — this really makes a difference,” said Bolt. “It is a chance for people here to not only share what we have with kids who have nothing, in desperate, hopeless situations that really makes a difference. It makes an impact with a child that you probably will never meet and never hear from.” For more information on Operation Christmas Child, how to build a box, participation in a packing party, and supplies like labels and shoeboxes, prospective donors can visit or contact any local churches or businesses who are participating or Operation Christmas Child’s website and drop-off location map.
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