Long tables set up at Columbus’ First Baptist Church Wednesday evening were loaded with notebooks, pom poms, hair clips, toothbrushes, small stuffed animals, crayons and combs. A dozen or more pre-teens and teens manned assembly lines, filling distinctive red and green Operation Christmas Child “shoeboxes” destined for delivery to children worldwide.
The First Baptist group is just one in the Golden Triangle filling boxes to be distributed to youngsters in remote locations throughout the world. Other churches, clubs, Scout groups, organizations, businesses and families are doing the same across the country. OCC is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to people in need around the globe.
The National OCC Collection Week is Nov. 16-23. The collection center for Columbus and surrounding areas is the Boy Scout Hut at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market lot at Second Avenue and Second Street North. It will be open Nov. 16-20 and 23 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Nov. 21 1-3 p.m. and Nov. 22 1-5 p.m.
“We’d love to bring in 40,000 boxes this year at the Columbus Collection Center and the new collection center established in Winona,” said Nelda Brown, area OCC coordinator. The centers are two of more than 4,000 drop-off sites in the country.
“Shoeboxes can be packed by everyone, from the very young to the very old,” said Brown. “They are easy and inexpensive and can change a life for eternity. There have been new churches built in remote villages from a child receiving a shoebox gift.”
Emma Kate Griffin has been packing OCC shoeboxes since she was 3 years old. She is now 13.
“It’s fun,” said the Columbus Christian Academy student as she put small toys in a box. “I feel for these little kids; we do our own boxes at home, too.
The gift-filled boxes are intended to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need. Since 1993, OCC has collected and delivered more than 124 million shoeboxes to youngsters in more than 150 countries and territories.
“This year, our boxes are going to 16 countries; all but three of them are in Africa,” said Brown. Participants can follow their box online to discover where their gift is delivered by using the donation form found at samaritanspurse.org/occ.
Through the boxes, more than 4.7 million children have participated in The Greatest Journey, OCC’s follow-up program offered to many children who receive shoebox gifts. The Greatest Journey is implemented through a global church network to help children learn about Jesus.
Go to samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/ to learn more about age categories, box labels and suggested items. A donation of $7 per box is requested to help defray costs of shipping and distribution.
OCC boxes are available at First Baptist Church. Plastic shoebox-size containers or similar size cardboard boxes are also suitable.
For more information, contact First Baptist Church, the host church in Columbus, at 662-328-3915.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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