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Operation Christmas child — changing a child’s life

By Sara Littlejohn
Special to The SUN

School supply shopping is a ritual for many heading back to school. Amid shopping sprees, kids and parents in Pagosa Springs are looking beyond their own needs and considering the difference a pencil or pen would make in the lives of needy children overseas.

For many poverty-stricken children, often a lack of basic supplies is what stands between them and attending school. By maximizing back-to-school sales, Pagosa Springs families are stocking up on school supplies for Operation Christmas Child — a massive year-round project in which volunteers pack shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement for children in poverty across the globe.

“It is such a blessing to help change a child’s life just by sending a shoe box filled with items I think they may like and need,” said Vickie Czlapinski, year-round Operation Christmas Child volunteer. “My husband and I like to shop the back-to-school section in Wal-Mart and stock up on notebooks, pens, pencils, solar calculators and so much more. We are thrilled to be able to buy these items for children who may not otherwise go to school.”

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children worldwide. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the project expects to collect another 9.8 million shoebox gifts in 2013. For many of these children, the shoebox will be the first gift they have ever received.

Sending hope to millions of children is a full-time effort, and anyone can participate. National Collection Week for shoebox gifts is Nov.18-25, but it’s not too early to get involved. U.S. volunteers are needed year-round, and shoeboxes are collected throughout the year at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C. Participants can also build a box through an online tool offering a personalized and convenient way to send a gift to a child in one of the hardest-to-reach countries.

 How to help

• Pack a Shoebox Gift. Fill shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement. At samaritanspurse.org, click on “Operation Christmas Child” for step-by-step packing instructions.

• Sign up to volunteer. Volunteer opportunities are available at samaritanspurse.org. Click on “Operation Christmas Child” for more details and information.

• Spread the word. Help enlist individuals, families and groups to take part in creating shoebox gifts.

For more information, visit samaritanspurse.org or call (303) 745-9179.

This story was posted on August 29, 2013.