Tina DaSilva talks about Operation Christmas Child, the annual holiday effort to fill shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and other treats to send to needy children around the world.
Q: Just what is Operation Christmas Child?
A: It’s a project of the nondenominational Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse where volunteers from communities and churches pack shoe boxes with school supplies, hygiene items, fun toys and other items to send to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way. For many of these children, it’s the first and maybe only such gift they ever received.
Q: What’s the purpose?
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A: To be a blessing to children. To show them they’re loved. But it’s not just about the toys. The goal isn’t just to deliver presents but to let them know of God’s love and about Jesus. A Gospel message is included in each gift box.
Q: Do items have to go in a shoe box?
A: You can use any medium-sized cardboard or plastic shoe box. You decide if you want to put in items for a boy or girl and what age range — from 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14.
Q: What goes in?
A: We suggest one “wow” item, that’s what we call it, something like a doll, soccer ball and pump, stuffed animal, those sorts of things. Also put in other fun little toys plus hygiene items, school supplies and practical things like that. Some of these children literally can’t attend school because they don’t have pencils or paper so those can be very important gifts.
Q: Are there prohibited items?
A: For mostly obvious reasons, people shouldn’t put in used or damaged items and no war or weapon-related toys, no liquids or food or toothpaste and no candy. We also let people know a donation of $9 is important to cover collection, shipping, training and distribution costs. If you give the donation online you can print a tracking label that lets you know the destination of your box.
Q: What do people do with shoe boxes once packed?
A: Several possibilities. They might be collected at their church and brought to a drop-off location or if an individual or a group is doing them they can take them to the drop off point themselves. Nov. 12-19 is our collection week. Drop-off points that are listed at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ along with a lot of information about Operation Christmas Child.
Q: Locally, where’s the drop off?
A: At Shirley Hills Baptist Church, 615 Corder Road, Warner Robins. Shirley Hills is not only a drop off point but also a central drop off location for the Heart of Georgia Team. That means other drop-off points bring shoe boxes to us to be placed in cartons and sent to Atlanta where they’re gathered from all over the southeast for processing and to be shipped worldwide.
Q: Are there options besides fixing a box yourself?
A: For $25, you can build a shoe box online at the website by selecting items and Operation Christmas Child will pack and send it for you.
Q: Are countries besides the U.S. involved in preparing shoe boxes?
A: Yes. Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, New Zealand and Japan all do.
Q: Where do boxes go?
A: They go to any of the more than 100 countries where Samaritan’s Purse provides aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty and famine.
Q: How many people are involved in the operation?
A: Nearly 500,000 volunteers worldwide with more than 150,000 in the U.S. In our area, we can’t say exactly how many people prepare shoe boxes but there are about 50 volunteers young and old who work at our central drop off location from Shirley Hills, other churches and from the community.
Q: How many shoe boxes are generated locally?
A: Last year, we collected 26,845 shoe boxes. Of that, 6,995 came from immediate area churches, groups and individuals and 19,850 from six other Central Georgia drop off sites.
Q: Why do you do it?
A: It’s such a tangible way for me to participate and partner with Samaritan’s Purse to share the Gospel. There are too many children across the world who don’t know who Jesus is and what a wonderful gift of eternal life he gives us. This is an awesome way to let them know that and how loved they are.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.