Operation Christmas Child continues international effort

Despite the “weakest spending environment that the U.S. economy has faced in 17 years,” families are continuing a tradition of giving. They’re joining Operation Christmas Child in the effort to help needy kids suffering from natural disaster, war, poverty and famine — with a shoebox.

Even though times are tough for many people, folks in Pagosa Springs are still filling boxes this year. Nancy Burke, Pagosa Springs Relay Center Coordinator, shops all year long for Operation Christmas Child, visiting dollar stores, finding new items at garage sales and thrift shops, and finding real bargains at the end of holiday seasons. “I don’t feel the financial impact quite so much if I shop all year to find the bargains. We have so much, and they have so little. It wouldn’t be Christmas to me if I didn’t give to those who have never received gifts before and tell them about God’s love.”

Mercedes Leist, who has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for ten years says, “I love Operation Christmas Child because I see happiness on the faces of those who fill the boxes and those who receive them. Even though the boxes go to children we will never meet, I know the children will receive happiness and understand that someone loves them.””

Families across the United States and in 10 other countries are partnering with Operation Christmas Child to participate in a simple and inexpensive way to send gift-filled shoe boxes to more than 8 million needy children worldwide. Operation Christmas Child, a project of international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, starts with an empty shoe box that is packed with simple items most people take for granted — toothpaste, small toys and school supplies — then wrapped and hand-delivered to hurting children in more than 100 countries. For many kids who receive shoebox gifts, it will be the first gift they have ever received. Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project and has collected and hand-delivered more than 61 million shoe box gifts to hurting kids in some 130 countries since 1993.

Dave Cammack, a local Realtor and member of the Rotary since 1993, has filled boxes with his family for years. “It’s so touching to see kids in third world countries receive gifts for the first time. It brings true meaning to Christmas.”

This Christmas project is a wonderful way for individuals or families with children to help another child in need and be blessed by the experience. Anyone can participate in Operation Christmas Child by filling a shoebox with toys, toiletries, school supplies, candy, and a letter of encouragement. A standard shoebox (no boot boxes please) or a plastic Sterilite box, available at Alco, is all you need to get started. Brochures with the information on how to fill a box, the labels for age groups (boy or girl 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14), and a donation envelope to help with shipping, are at area churches and Alco. You can choose the age of the child you would like to shop for and personalize your gift box with a letter and picture. Occasionally a person who has packed a box has even heard back from the child who received it.

National Collection Week for the boxes will be at the Mountain Heights Baptist Church on Park Avenue, next to the PLPOA Recreation Center. The goal this year is 1,000 boxes from Pagosa Springs. Last year Pagosa filled 902 boxes. Bring your boxes to the church during the following times: Monday, Nov. 17, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1-3 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 20, 1-3 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 21, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 23, 1-5 p.m.

If you would like to learn more about Operation Christmas Child, you can visit the Web site, www.samaritanspurse.org. Put the cursor on “What We Do” and then click on “Operation Christmas Child.”

If you have questions or would like to be involved in the collection week, call Nancy Burke at 731-5901.