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Operation Christmas Child gets under way

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Everson Evangelical Church wants you to consider starting your Christmas shopping early.

The church is a new drop site for "Operation Christmas Child," a project that sends gift-filled shoe boxes to children living in desperate situations around the world.

While those shoe boxes from new school shoes are still around, Operation Christmas Child volunteers suggest begin filling them with gifts, such as small toys, school supplies, non-perishable food items, or personal hygiene items.

Operation Christmas Child, the world's largest children's Christmas project, began in 1993. It is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham.

In 2001, more than 5.4 million shoeboxes were collected from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands for distribution.

This year, Operation Christmas Child projects 6 million shoe boxes will be distributed worldwide where war, famine and natural disaster are a way of life.

The goal for Everson Evangelical is 1,000 shoe boxes.

These will be combined with others from the area, from churches including World Christian Outreach Ministries in Connellsville and Clinton Church of God in Normalville, to total an estimated 10,000 that will be shipped from Great Bethel Baptist Church in Uniontown. From Uniontown, the boxes will be sent to Charlotte, N.C., for distribution.

Everson Evangelical project coordinator Tina Graft says the Everson drop site will be more convenient for participants in the program from New Stanton to Bullskin Township who previously had to drive their donations to other locations.

Everson Evangelical has been participating in Operation Christmas Child for three years, since Pastor Neil Stevens encouraged the congregation to become involved with the project.

"It's a wonderful project. It's exciting to see the boxes come in," says Stevens.

Assistant coordinator at Everson Evangelical, Trissa McLaughlin, says she has contacted approximately 70 area churches to participate and the response has been "very enthusiastic."

Graft says it's more than a church project, though. Groups and organizations can choose it as a service project.

4-H clubs sew drawstring bags for the project, so the child receiving the gift has something in which to carry his or her items.

Groups or individuals may also consider helping with a money donation for shipping costs or the purchase of additional items for shoe boxes.

And donations of empty shoeboxes are always needed.

Graft says churches and organizations can arrange for a presentation that explains the project.

Ruth Smith, coordinator at World Christian Outreach Ministries in Connellsville, says it is also a good family project.

"Instead of, 'What can I buy you?' it's 'What can we do for someone else?'" says Smith.

She says she is getting her grandchildren involved in the project, to help teach them the importance of giving and sharing with others.

McLaughlin says it has had an impact on her family, giving them the realization of how much they really have.

Collections at Everson Evangelical (contact Tina Graft 724-529-0664) and Clinton Church of God in Normalville (contact Pastor Joseph Wingrove 724-626-1643) will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 18 through Nov. 23 and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 24.

Collections at World Christian Outreach Ministries in Connellsville (contact Ruth Smith 724-628-9285) will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 18 through Nov. 23 and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 24.

Collections at Great Bethel Baptist Church in Uniontown (contact Susan Jennings 724-437-0815) will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 18 to Nov. 25.

A local 800 number has been established for those who have to call long distance: call 1-800-397-9257 and leave a message for the center nearest to you.

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