It’s a small box that can make a big difference in a kid’s life.
Imagine opening a shoebox in January or February and finding it filled with goodies that you could only dream of having if you were a child living in Haiti, one of the poorest nations on the earth, or in the mountains of Peru or Ecuador in South America?
This holiday season, numerous residents of Elizabethton are filling shoeboxes with gifts to send to needy children around the world as part of Operation Christmas Child, one of the largest Christmas projects of its kind.
“I’m packing clothes, toothpaste and a couple of toys, along with some crayons and small books,” said Kathy Hicks of Doe River Baptist Church, who has been packing a box for several years. After packing boxes for a couple of years, she recruited others at her church to get involved, and it now has become an annual activity.
The Tri-Cities Area Team, of which Elizabethton is a part, anticipates collecting 15,000 shoeboxes this year.
Locally, a collection site has been set up at Hunter First Baptist Church, where this week, hundreds of shoeboxes packed full of goodies were dropped off by Elizabethton families and individuals.
Shirley Barr, secretary at the church, said 2,600 shoeboxes were collected at the center last year. “We hope to do even better this year,” she said.
Barr is the coordinator for the collection site at Hunter First Baptist.
The shoeboxes are filled with items such as hygiene products, toys, clothes, pens and pencils.
This year-round project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, ramped up this week as local businesses, churches and community groups collected the gift-filled shoe boxes during National Collection Week, which began Tuesday and will continue through Nov. 19.
Anyone can drop off a packed shoebox at the Hunter First Baptist Church. Then, using whatever means necessary — trucks, trains, boats, bikes and even elephants — the shoebox gifts will be hand-delivered to hurting children in 100 countries around the world.
Hunter First Baptist is located at 693 TN Highway 91.
The collection times are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, and 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 19.
This year, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone — collecting and delivering shoeboxes to more than 100 million children since 1993. During that time, Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 94 million shoebox gifts and hand-delivered them to suffering children in more than 130 countries. This year, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect another 9 million gift-filled shoeboxes.
“Through the power of a simple gift and the message of hope through Jesus Christ, children learn they are loved and not forgotten. For many children, the shoebox gift will be the first gift they have ever received,” said Matthew Robinson, who is coordinator for the Tri-Cities Team.
“Each box represents a child. It’s a way to say Merry Christmas in their language. It may give them a moment of happiness in a world that’s not always been kind,” Robinson said.
Once the shoeboxes are delivered to the receiving center in Boone, N.C., they are checked by volunteers to make sure that all items are appropriate for children.