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2 churches aim for total 2,500 shoeboxes of gifts for Operation Christmas Child

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Local residents can bring Christmas joy to one child at a time — one shoebox at a time — through Operation Christmas Child.

The shoebox ministry was started in the United States in 1993 by Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, with the Samaritan's Purse organization. Operation Christmas Child has been called the world's largest Christmas project.

Shoebox gifts are sent to millions of children in more than 100 countries suffering from natural disaster, war, disease, famine and poverty. From each collection point, the shoebox gifts are shipped to Boone, N.C., then sorted and sent using whatever means necessary to reach suffering children in the United States and around the world.

This year, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone — collecting and delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since 1993.

Ruth Smith, of World Christian Outreach Ministries in Connellsville, is the local coordinator of the local shoebox ministry.

“Through the power of a simple gift and the message of hope through Jesus Christ, children learn they are loved and not forgotten,” she said. “For many children, the shoebox gift will be the first gift they have ever received.”

The two local collection points are World Christian Outreach Ministries, 503 Georgia Ave. in Connellsville (behind the Subway shop); and Clinton Church of God, 405 Buchanan Road in Normalville.

The combined goal of the two sites is 2,500 boxes, up from 2,000 last year. Many area churches are finishing boxes to be delivered to the two designated collection points. The deadline period begins Nov. 12.

People, businesses and organizations wanting to donate must have filled shoeboxes next week as part of the National Collection Week. The Connellsville and Normalville sites will be open daily. Volunteers will prepare the shoeboxes for shipping.

Many families have made Operation Christmas Child a joint effort — combining small toys and stuffed animals, grooming products, hard candy and school supplies into shoe boxes.

Not acceptable for donations are war toys, sharp objects, gels or liquids.

Donations must be placed in plastic shoeboxes because they are durable when shipped. Each box must include $7 to help defray shipping costs.

Smith is the local coordinator of the shoebox-project ministry. Smith said she is proud of the way the program has grown over the years.

“Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful operation, and I'm pleased that we here in the Connellsville area are able to contribute so generously,” she said.

Drop-offs in Connellsville are next week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday; 10 a.m. to noon Saturday; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

There are signs at the corner of Blake and Hawthorn avenues directing donors to World Christian Outreach Ministries. Drop-offs at Clinton Church of God are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 2 p.m. Sunday; and 8 to 9 a.m. Monday.

For the first time, Smith is using the shoe-box processing center at the headquarters of Samaritan's Purse in Boone to help there. She will be traveling with her daughter and a group from Connellsville Church of God.

Operation Christmas Child uses tracking technology to allow participants to “follow” their boxes to the destination country where it will be given to a child in need. To register shoebox gifts and learn the destination country, use the “Follow Your Box” form found at www.samaritanspurse.org.

Monetary donations also are accepted for those who want to help but don't have time to prepare a shoebox. For more information, local residents can call World Christian Outreach Ministries at 724-628-9285 or Clinton Church of God at 724-455-2017.

“Samaritan's Purse is helping now in New York and New Jersey with the tragic results from Hurricane Sandy. They have many projects in addition to Operation Christmas Child,” Smith said. “There is plenty of information on the website.”

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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