Across the world each year, children who have never had a Christmas gift, a toy or even their own towel or toothbrush receive presents through Operation Christmas Child, an effort through Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization.
Local residents can help this year's effort by filling shoeboxes with toiletries, small toys and other items like school supplies, then wrapping the boxes and dropping them off at sites in Statesboro, Metter and Sylvania, said relay center coordinator Cindy Nevil, who is managing operations at the Statesboro drop-off site, Emit Grove Baptist Church.
Nov. 16-23 is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, and the project hopes to reach more than 11 million children worldwide, she said.
The shoeboxes should be wrapped, with the lid wrapped separately so it can be opened and inspected before shipping. The lid can be secured with a rubber band, and the box should be labeled to identify whether the gift is for a boy or girl and what age group (2-4, 5-9 or 10-14), she said.
While it is not required, a cash donation of $7 tucked inside the box will help defray shipping costs, she said.
Gifters should be careful, however, as some items are prohibited due to the danger of a child receiving them and being punished for breaking the laws or rules of their home country. While the intent may be good, a child receiving a cross or Christian symbol or religious reference of any kind "in a country like Iran" could face severe consequences, Nevil said. Also, children in wartorn countries should not receive gifts of toy guns or weapons, she said.
Suggested gift items include a washcloths soap, toothpaste (no liquids such as shampoo are allowed), jump ropes, crayons and coloring books, a ball, doll or stuffed animal.
"Sometimes these are the first and only gifts these children receive," Nevil said.
The Statesboro, Sylvania and Metter drop-off sites will join around 4,000 sites nationwide. Notes of encouragement, with no religious references, are welcome, she said.
"We're excited to be a part of this effort to communicate love and hope, through simple gifts, to so many children around the world who are struggling from war, famine, poverty and natural disaster," she said.
For more information about how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call (318) 525-7471. Instead of physically packing a box, with a computer or mobile device, anyone can conveniently pack a personalized shoebox to gift on the Samaritan's Purse website, samaritanspurse.org/occ. There, you can select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement and "pack" them for a child.
These gifts of hope will go to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries, Nevil said. Participants can also use the website to track their boxes.
Local Operation Christmas Child drop-off locations
Emit Grove Baptist Church (1567 Emit Grove Road, Statesboro)
Thursday, Nov. 19: 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20: 8:30–11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21: 8–10 a.m.
Sunday, Nov. 22: 12:30–3 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23: 7–9 a.m.
New Life Baptist Church (29854 GA Highway 121 South, Metter)
Thursday, Nov. 19: 2–7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20: 2–7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21: 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 22: 1–6 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23: 9 a.m.–noon
Sylvania First United Methodist Church (201 N. Main Street, Sylvania)
Thursday, Nov. 19: 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 20: 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 22: 3–8 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23: 1–5 p.m.