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‘Tis the Season for Operation Christmas Child

By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Freelance Writer

Christmas is the season of giving and blessing others. It’s unique sentiment of love and compassion fills a dark void that the hard reality of the world creates. With the arrival of holiday shopping already in action, Benita Hallmark helps coordinate West End Baptist Church’s efforts for Samaritan Purse’s  Operation Christmas Child.

Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian humanitarian-aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of its Christian missionary work.

Each year, Operation Christmas Child collects shoebox gifts from several different countries that are filled by individuals with toys, school supplies and hygiene items — and delivers them to children in need around the world to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way.

“Taking your grandchildren shopping and allowing them to pick out the gifts is a wonderful thing to do,” said Hallmark. “Our society and children have everything and they have no idea what it’s like to not have a bowl to eat out of. This teaches them to give and they enjoy doing it. It’s fun!”

Hallmark invites local churches to participate in holding their own shoe-box drive and delivering them to West End Baptist Church, 2005 2nd Avenue N in Clanton or Church at Bethel, 10042 Collins Chapel Road in Thorsby during National Collection Week Nov. 16-23. Collection times are available at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/.

(West End Baptist Church can be reached at 205-755-0625 and Church at Bethel can be reached at 205-857-2424.)

Once received, West End Baptist will load the shoe boxes into crates, which will be sent to Church at Bethel in Thorsby. Church at Bethel will then deliver the crates to Atlanta, which is a major distribution point and export of the boxes.

Individuals should collect a cardboard or plastic shoebox, decide if they want to make a box for a girl or boy and then select an age group to shop for (ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14). Popular items to give include: cups, bowls, hygiene items, toothbrushes, hair ribbons, small musical instrument, hand-puppets, stuffed animals and clothes. Prohibited items include: food, candy, medicines, seeds, liquids, shampoo, breakable items, camouflage clothing, military action figures or toy guns.

“Some of the locations are war-torn and have child soldiers,” said Hallmark. “So a child in a camouflage shirt might be mistaken for a soldier.”

Nine dollars should be included with each box for shipping. Personal notes and photos may be included in each box. If an address is included, the child may write back. Some of the heartfelt messages that Hallmark has witnessed in the past includes the outline of someone’s hand drawn inside the box that read, “put your hand on my hand and know that I’m praying for you.”

“I believe it is our duty to get the love of Jesus out in the world,” said Hallmark. “I may not be on a plane visiting other countries but I can still reach out to others and let them know they are loved.”

Once shoeboxes are distributed to children, missionaries of Samaritan’s Purse share a message about Jesus and His life called, “The Greatest Journey.” Hallmark is excited that the goal of Samaritan’s Purse is to collect 11 million boxes this year, potentially reaching 11 million youth with the message of Christ’s love.

For more information, visit Operation Christmas Child online at www.samaritanspurse.org, which includes complete list of recommended items and the option to build a shoebox online for $25 (which includes the $9 dollar shipping fee).