STARTING NEXT WEEK, people can donate goods for children across the globe at Main Street Baptist in Braidwood. Operation Christmas Child is an international outreach and mission to spread Christmas cheer to children in impoverished nations.
Marney Simon Staff writer
It may be hard to believe, but Christmas is only six weeks away. But while many families are already planning celebrations and putting together gift lists, millions across the globe have little to celebrate during the holiday season. In countries across the ocean, there simply is no Christmas magic for hundreds of thousands of children.
But a national Christian relief organization is taking steps to help some of those children, and efforts are stepping up right in Braidwood. Next week, volunteers with Operation Christmas Child are filling shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for needy children overseas.
Operation Christmas Child is the world's largest Christmas project of its kind. This year-round project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham, is preparing to collect 600 gift-filled shoe boxes during National Collection Week, Nov. 12 through 19.
In Braidwood, the collection site for the organization is Main Street Baptist Church.
Anyone can drop off a packed shoe box at the church, and volunteers will spend the week organizing, wrapping and prepping the boxes for shipment. Boxes put together in Braidwood will be shipped off to needy children in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, South Sudan and the Ukraine.
Elaine Pettet is helping to organize the efforts in Braidwood. Pettet said that it's not about purchasing expensive toys, but rather, small items that are useful, plus some enjoyable items as well.
"Mostly what they want to do is school supplies, hygienic products, some paper, a puzzle book, a small toy," Pettet said, adding that packages can also include hard candy, hair ties and bows, and even a flashlight with extra batteries.
Parents can help their children get into the spirit by including them in the process.
"If your child wants to write a note, they can put that in there," Pettet said. "If they include an envelope with a stamp, they might get a letter back."
Pettet said that boxed donations should be kept to the size of a regular shoe box, so that the gifts are equal for each of the recipients. The boxes will be divided by age groups and sex. Boxes can be made for boys or girls, ages 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14.
Pettet said that included should be $7 for shipping. Those making donations can include a check with their box, or can go online to pay the shipping fee. A tracking slip can also be printed out so the box can be followed to its final destination.
Pettet also added that the best type of box for donation would be a reusable plastic shoe box, which is not only sturdy but can also be reused.
Pettet said the mission is about bringing the true meaning of Christmas to children around the world.
"These are countries where there often are no churches," Pettet said. "We help to start churches there. A lot of these kids don't know Christ. It's an international mission, we can reach out to children in other countries and bring them the gift of Christ."
Collection at Main Street Baptist Church will be at the following times:
Nov. 12, 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m.
Nov. 13, 9 a.m. to noon
Nov. 14, 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m.
Nov. 15, 9 a.m. to noon
Nov. 16, 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m.
Nov. 17, 9 a.m. to noon
Nov. 18, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Nov. 19, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone by collecting and delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since its inception in 1993. During that time, Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 94 million shoe box gifts and hand-delivered them to suffering children in more than 130 countries. For many children, the shoe box gift is the first gift they have ever received.
Those who want to track their boxes can print out a form and submit their shipping payment online at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ .
Pettet said that donating is all about sharing the best of the season with those who need it most.
"We let them know that someone cares for them," Pettet said. "There are amazing stories out there. God is just wonderful."