Shoeboxes spread Christmas cheer around the world

By: 
Elisha Morrison
Staff Writer

Millions of shoeboxes will be packed and sent all over the world to children who, in some cases, have never had a Christmas gift of their own during Operation Christmas Child.
First Baptist Church Benton will serve as the local drop-off location for the boxes.
Collection week is scheduled for Nov. 13-19. Boxes can be dropped off from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 13-17, from 9 to11 a.m. Nov. 18 and noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 19. During those times, children will get an ornament and a goodie bag.
Lisa Baldwin, volunteer coordinator, said packing boxes is fun for children and helps them start the season focused on Christ’s gift.
The first night of collection the regional area representative for Operation Christmas Child will hold a short ceremony to thank FBC Benton for five years of serving as a collection site.
“I can’t thank First Baptist Church in Benton enough for letting us use the facility,” Baldwin said.
If a box needs to be dropped off early, it can be taken to the church office.
While FBC Benton serves as the drop-off site, Baldwin said all denominations, businesses and groups are welcome to pack shoeboxes.
Baldwin said volunteers to help receive and pack shoe boxes for shipment are always welcome. Anyone interested can call the church at 501-315-2270 and ask for Baldwin.
Last year the church packed a record 3,625.
The boxes are shipped to more than130 different countries.
Boxes are filled with small gifts based on gender and age. The age groups are 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. Baldwin said gifts for older boys are always in need because not as many people choose that age. She recommended tools, socks, shirts, underwear, work gloves or art supplies.
Packers can either use an average size shoebox or plastic shoebox. Hobby Lobby has special Operation Christmas Child designed plastic boxes for sale. Larger boxes are discouraged because it makes packing them for shipment difficult and less boxes fit.
Baldwin said the plastic boxes are great because the children can reuse them for storage and other uses. A washcloth or bandana can be used to line the box to keep the children from seeing inside and then can be used later.
If packers wish to wrap their boxes, the lid and box should be wrapped separately because all boxes will need to be checked before they can be shipped.
Boxes should be filled with small gifts but cannot include food items, candy, toothpaste, war-related items, drink mixes, liquids, medicines or breakable items. Baldwin said they have had to stop accepting toothpaste and similar items because in the past they’ve caused problems during customs checks.
Recommendations for what to put in the box include hygiene items, small toys, school supplies and one “wow” item, such as a soccer ball, nice shirt or stuffed animal.
“A wow item is something they can use daily,” Baldwin said. “It is something that brings them special joy.”
After receiving the gifts, the children have the option to learn more about Christianity with a short course. While they don’t have to take it, Baldwin said many do. The children who complete the course get a graduation ceremony that their families celebrate.
A donation of $9 per box helps cover the cost of shipping. Packers can go online to pay the $9 and they will be able to print off a tracking label to see where their box ends up. Payment and a full list of suggested and prohibited items can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.
Baldwin said Operation Christmas Child is a Christian outreach to show children around the world the love and gift of Christ. She said it is one way people can fulfill Christ’s commission to spread the gospel around the world.
“The kids are excited people around the world care enough to pack a box,” Baldwin said.

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