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Churches gather boxes for children in need

RAND, W.Va.--A shoebox filled with gifts can mean immeasurable joy for a child this Christmas season.

It's National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes have gone to needy children in more than 100 countries.

Many area churches and organizations have been putting together shoeboxes for needy kids and delivering them to drop-off points such as Rand First Church of the Nazarene.

This marks the 18th year the church has served as a collection site, Pastor Gordon Killion said.

The shoebox ministry meets a special need for children throughout the world who have so little, he said.

He has heard many stories about children who have received the boxes.

One little girl was happy to find a bar of soap in her box. She would smell the soap because it made her feel pretty. However, she would not use it because that would mean it would be gone.

Another child opened a box and selected only one item before realizing that all of the treasures within could be kept.

"This is about a little shoebox and the opportunity to give someone something they would not have otherwise," Gordon said. "From a religious point, it's an opportunity to give hope beyond a shoebox or a Christmas gift. Franklin Graham tries to teach them about the love of Jesus Christ and give them hope that goes beyond Christmas."

The boxes collected locally will go to Boone, N.C., where religious pamphlets will be inserted in the language of the country where a box is headed. Shoeboxes are sent by plane to various countries and may reach their final destinations by Jeep, truck, train, boat, bike, camel or elephant.

For many children, a shoebox will be their only Christmas gift. Some have never previously received a gift of any kind.

Faith Caldwell, media associate for Operation Christmas Child, is based in Xenia, Ohio, the regional office for West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

"In the Charleston area alone, 10,856 shoeboxes were collected last year," she said. "The number of boxes collected in West Virginia last year was 106,301."

The organization hopes to increase the number of boxes collected every year in order to reach more children, she said. Shoeboxes will go to kids in more than 130 countries this year. Aside from delivering boxes, volunteers are based throughout the world to offer children a 12-week class called "The Greatest Journey" in order to teach them about Christianity.

"The people are trained and it's amazing how many people volunteer," she said.

A semi-truck is parked next to Rand Church of the Nazarene where it is ready to be loaded with shoeboxes for the trip to Boone, N.C., where boxes will be checked for any inappropriate items such as anything that could break or melt. If an item is removed, it is replaced by something else, Caldwell said. No items that are war related may be included in a box.

The following is a list of suggested items that would be appropriate for filling a shoebox:

Hygiene items: wash cloth, bar soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush.

School supplies: pencils, pencil sharpeners, paper, crayons, markers.

Toys: stuffed animals, small toy balls, bowls and cups, marbles, jacks, jump rope, small games, puzzles.

Other items: flashlight and batteries, fishing line and hooks to make a fishing pole, tools such as hammers, hats, gloves.

Shoeboxes may be filled and dropped off at the church through Monday. Include $7 for shipping. Children also enjoy receiving pictures of the person sending the box as well as a letter.

Go to samaritanspurse.org for more details about the shoebox ministry and to learn how to participate online.

Rand Church of the Nazarene is located at 305 Davidson Ave. in Rand. Shoeboxes may be dropped off 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Those who choose to gift wrap a box should wrap the lid separately so that it may be removed for checking the contents. For more information, call the church at 304-925-7336.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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