Susan Cook can remember when her family had very little at Christmas.
Those childhood memories prompted her to join Operation Christmas Child, a national effort that will help children across the globe with shoeboxes filled with donations of toys, clothes, school supplies and other essential items from churches and civic organizations.
I love the end results, she said. I love being able to make some kids life better. I grew up poor, and this brings back memories to when I was little.
Cook is one of about 40 volunteers from Ingleside Baptist Church, which is spearheading the Macon effort to collect the shoeboxes for Samaritans Purse, the organization in Boone, N.C., run by Franklin Graham.
Andy Moore, who is the relay center coordinator in Macon, said several midstate cities are involved in the collections, which will be sent regionally to Byron United Methodist Church. That church, in turn, will send the donations on to Atlanta, where they will then be sent on their way to the children in need.
Macon alone contributed about 2,700 boxes to the effort last year, and hopes to collect about 3,000 this year, Moore said. Middle Georgia could collect close to 30,000 boxes this year, he predicted.
The boxes will be sent to children across 160 countries.
In each box, theyll put the Christmas story in the language of the country its going to, Moore said. Logistically, its incredible what they can pull off. They give out about five million of them.
Anyone who wants to participate are asked to fill a shoebox with items including school supplies, toys, hygiene items and other personal items, such as jewelry, T-shirts, batteries and flashlights. Participants also are encouraged to send a personal note and photo of their family to the child, who may send the family a letter.
Items to avoid in the boxes include damaged or used items, war-related items (such as toy guns or military figures), food including chocolate, liquids and lotions, medicine, vitamins, aerosol cans and breakable items.
Moore said about 20 churches in Macon and Bibb County are teaming up with Ingleside Baptist Church, as well as other organizations.
Stephanie English, marketing director for Tattnall Square Academy, said more than 200 elementary school students will take part in Operation Christmas Child on Thursday morning. They are partnering with Chick-fil-A, which will then take the shoeboxes to be collected.
One of the things we try to each our kids is giving back to the community, especially to families who dont have anything during the holidays, she said.
Students are encouraged to put together packages for children who are the same age and gender they are, to give the children in need things they would like, English said.
The program works well with the various missionaries the school has brought in to talk to students, she said.
Weve had different missionaries come and explain what they do, she said. Even though the children cant go on missions, this is an opportunity for them to give back.
Its not just the children who will get the satisfaction of giving something back. Cook said she and her children have filled the shoeboxes for years, and this year she decided to volunteer at the distribution center.
I realize how blessed I am, she said. This is just my way of reaching out globally.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.