All it takes is a shoebox, a few gifts and some love.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.
In 2017, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 12 million children in countries like Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. Nearly 11.5 million shoebox gifts were collected worldwide in 2016, with more than 9.1 million collected in the United States, according to the organization’s website, www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child.
This year’s goal for the southeast area is to pack 18,000 shoeboxes – which means 18,000 children will receive a Christmas gift of toys, hygiene items, clothing and school supplies.
Mary Ann Parker is a member of the Seed Sewers at First Baptist Church in Farmington. The church serve as a drop-off site and the relay center for the Southeast Missouri Division during the shoebox collection week of Nov. 13-20.
The church hosts a monthly dinner for members and guests the first Wednesday of each month. Proceeds from this month’s meal went to the Operation Christmas Child ministry.
During the meal, members of the group had display tables set up of special items created to pack in shoeboxes.
There were drawstring bags and small backpacks, sewing kits, hats and other items stitched together by members – all for the taking for those packing shoeboxes.
Parker showed one of the sundresses she made of the many hanging on a rack.
“I’ve been making them for a number of years,” she said. “I don’t count them…I have no idea how many I’ve made.”
She held up one creation and said a favorite part of the process is to make a matching headband and scarf if there is material available.
“I can make them match,” she said. “Or, if there’s no more material in that print, I can make it to match.”
But more than the sense of accomplishment for Parker is the thought of what the gift may mean to the one who receives it.
“It’s a joy to think of little girls opening the box to get what might be the first new gift they’ve ever received,” she said. “That’s why I like making these so much.”
The group is planning to hold a box packing party this week with some of the items they’ve made. Member Sharon Rich, who also works at the shoebox drop-off center, said left over items from their packing event goes to the youth and children’s mission groups to fill their own boxes.
Local businesses are also getting into the spirit of encouraging others to pack a shoebox by offering a special drawing for all those bringing filled shoeboxes to their store.
Oasis Christian Bookstore, located at 3 N. Henry St., Laura Belle Boutique, located at 24 E. Columbia St. and Ophelia, located at 20 W. Columbia St. are each holding a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to their store for those who bring in a filled shoebox. The event is currently underway and runs until the end of the month.
Southern Sins Boutique, located at 122 E Columbia, will hold a drawing for a $30 gift certificate, three bath bombs, and three Erimish bracelets for those who bring in a filled shoebox. Drop-offs begin on Oct. 16 and runs until the end of the month.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child collection in this area, contact Gene Wilfong at 218-8690.