Operation Christmas Child urges community to help needy abroad

If you'd like to send a little holiday cheer and love to a needy child halfway around the world, Operation Christmas Child is looking for your help. The program is accepting donations of school supplies, toys, clothes and other small items for shipment to poor children in 100 countries across the globe. National collection week is Nov. 14 through 21.

Locally, drop-off points are at Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Rockdale County and Mansfield Baptist Church in Newton County. Those interested are asked to pack the donations in shoe boxes and, if possible, to include $7 to pay for the cost of shipping.

A Christian-based ministry run by Samaritan's Purse International Relief, Operation Christmas Child distributed a record 8.7 million gift boxes to children in locations including Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe last year.

Smyrna Presbyterian Operation Christmas Child Coordinator Theresa Ray said the goal of the program is twofold -- to provide children with needed supplies and to spread the love of God.

"They not only receive the Christmas boxes but it draws them in as Christians. It's an excellent way to witness," said Ray.

Suggested items for the shoeboxes include toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, washcloths, T-shirts, hats, school supplies, hard candy and small toys. Items related to war, such as toy soldiers, knives and guns, should not be packed, as well as chocolate, lotions, aerosol cans and glass containers.

Boxes should be prepared for a boy or girl in the following age groups: 2 to 4; 5 to 9 and 10 to 14.

More than one box can be prepared and the box and lid should be wrapped separately. Senders may also include a photo, a short note and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Ray said some parents make Operation Christmas Child a family activity.

"It teaches children even at a young age that Christmas is not always about receiving, it's about giving to someone else," said Ray.

Ray said last year Rockdale County collected over 1,300 shoe boxes and she'd like to exceed that amount this year.

"I'm excited to get the word out to more and more people," said Ray.

Boxes delivered in Newton and Rockdale are shipped to a central location in McDonough and then transferred to Atlanta where they are shipped internationally. Those interested in tracking their boxes can do so by visiting www.samaritanspurse.org.