Some volunteers are busy carefully carrying tall stacks of gift-filled shoeboxes covered in bright, cheery wrapping paper from trunks of vehicles to a large room at the First Baptist Church in Whitesburg. Other volunteers are quickly looking through the rectangular boxes before they are packed in large brown boxes and placed on a 53-foot-tractor trailer truck parked near the church.
It’s shoebox collection week at the Whitesburg church.
This is the seventh year the church has served as the Operation Christmas Child collection center for southeast Kentucky/southwest Virginia. Local schools, community and church groups as well as individuals and businesses will be dropping off gift-filled shoeboxes at the church until Nov. 23. Volunteers from relay centers in Hazard, Lynch, Pikeville, Salyersville, Shelby Valley, Big Stone Gap, Va., and Wise, Va., will bring large quantities of shoeboxes that have been collected at their sites to the Whitesburg church this week.
Last year Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse headed by Franklin Graham, collected and distributed eight million shoeboxes filled with toiletries, school supplies, candy, toys and other items to needy children in 100 different countries, including the United States.
The Whitesburg church collected 9,048 shoeboxes last year and has a hefty goal of collecting 10,000 shoeboxes this year.
Operation Christmas Child does not leave out children located in remote areas. Many different types of transportation are used including helicopters in Panama, camels in Jordan and Afghanistan, small boats in the Solomon Islands, and donkeys in Honduras.
Lee Adams, a member of First Baptist Church of Whitesburg, serves as area coordinator volunteer for southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia’s Operation Christmas Child.
Adams has lasting memories of her trip to Jamaica in 2006 when she hand delivered shoeboxes to children in Jamaica.
“I will never forget the looks on those children’s faces,” said Adams.
Adams said many children who receive shoeboxes have never received so many little gifts at one time in their life. She said several of the children live in orphanages and have to share everything and are not used to having something that is just for them.
“Those gifts are well loved and taken care of,” said Adams.
Adams said she has been told that six months after a child has been given a shoebox he/she still holds onto the gift and can name everything that came in the box.
Adams said including school supplies in a shoebox will help children be prepared for school.
“A box of crayons may cost a week’s worth of wages,” said Adams.
Adams said compiling a shoebox is easy.
“All you need to get started is an empty shoebox,” said Adams. “Fill it with necessity items, toys, school supplies, candy, and if you want, a handwritten note of encouragement. Then pray for the child that will receive your box that his or her heart may be changed for a life for Christ.”
The person fixing a box decides whether the package will be for a boy or a girl and what age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.
Suggested items to place in a shoebox are small stuffed animals, hard candy, balloons, small pads of paper, crayons, and small balls.
The organization does not want the following items included in the packages: used items; toy guns, knives or other war-related items; chocolate or perishable food items; liquids of any kind (shampoo, lotion, bubbles); medicines of any kind (vitamins, cough drops); and breakable items (china dolls, snow globes).
It is asked that $7 be included to cover the cost of shipping the package overseas but the money is not a must. Churches and other organizations give donations to help pay the shipping costs. Adams said the Christian rock band Third Day donated $3 million from ticket sales to help cover the cost of shipping shoeboxes across the world.
Shoeboxes will be collected at the church through Nov. 23. Gift-filled shoeboxes can be dropped off at the Whitesburg church from noon until 8 p.m. until Nov. 20. Drop off shoeboxes between 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Nov. 21. Shoeboxes will be collected on Nov. 22 by appointment only. On Nov. 23 volunteers will accept shoeboxes from noon until 8 p.m.
For more information, call Adams at 632-0899 or email her at Krzy4Shoeboxes@bellsouth.net.
A two-minute video clip of Adams talking about Operation Christmas Child can be viewed for free at www.themountaineagle.com.