Operation Christmas Child Collection Week is months away — mid-November — but some area churches, organizations and individuals will be shopping this summer for items to fill thousands of “shoeboxes” destined for children in more than 100 countries. OCC Area Coordinator Nelda Brown of Columbus wants to spread the word: Some guidelines for items are changing.
“Hygiene items can still be included in boxes in 2016; however, due to other governments’ regulations, candy and toothpaste will no longer be allowed starting in 2017,” said Brown. Although this change does not officially go into effect until November 2017, Brown would like shoebox shoppers to be aware this year and get used to the revised guidelines.
“I’m hoping we’ll stop putting toothpaste and candy in this year, so it will be easier next year,” she remarked.
For anyone who might have already gathered these items for boxes, the Samaritan’s Purse website states that for 2016 any hard candies (no chocolate, fruit roll-ups, etc.) or toothpaste must have an expiration date at least six months after the November Collection Week.
Starting in 2017, no type of candy or toothpaste will be allowed in boxes due to increasing custom regulations, the site reads.
Surpassing area goals
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritans Purse, which is led by Franklin Graham. OCC is one of the largest evangelical ministries in the world, reaching 11.3 million children with shoeboxes in 2015. Each box is filled with age-appropriate items by people around the globe. Area Mississippians are active supporters.
“We had two collection centers for 2015, one in Columbus and one in Winona,” Brown explained. “Our goal was 40,000 boxes. Total collections were 40,600!” Brown said 26,277 of those came into the Columbus center; 14,323 were turned in at Winona.
“This year we’ve set our goal at 45,000 boxes between the two centers. I would love for the collection center here in Columbus to collect 28,000 to 30,000 boxes this year,” the coordinator said.
Brown noted that school supplies are some of the most wanted items in boxes, along with bar soap, toothbrushes, combs and hairbrushes. All children love stuffed animals, balls or toy cars, especially for the boys, she added. Lists of suggested items, and age categories, may be found at samaritanspurse.org.
“Remember, what goes in a box is fun, but what comes out is the message that God loves you, and you are not forgotten,” Brown said.
The boxes are followed up with the Greatest Journey, a 12-week Bible study. There is also year-round follow-up from pastors in distribution areas and National Leadership teams, like the Ugandan team Brown met with in April in Atlanta.
“The potential for this ministry is mind-boggling,” she said.
“Last year we had about 72 Lowndes county churches participate (in the shoebox drive),” the coordinator added. “Just think what we could do right here if we had 100 or more churches on board, not to mention clubs and other organizations.”
For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit samaritanspurse.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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