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Operation Christmas Child
Local group gathering and shipping shoeboxes of gifts
Christmas Child logo Web
    For Janet Ward, the mission of Operation Christmas Child is clear.
    “We bring a small ray of hope into the lives of some children with the only Christmas gift they'll receive,” Ward said. “And we expose them to the saving message of Jesus Christ, at the same time.”
    Ward is a relay center coordinator for the Christmas Child effort in Southeast Georgia. She heads up the local collection of shoeboxes filled with gifts at First Presbyterian Church in Statesboro, where she also is a member.
    Operation Christmas Child was founded in 1993 as a project of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, headed by Franklin Graham. Since then, the project has delivered more than 69 million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children in some 130 countries.
    Last year, the Statesboro area contributed 3,381 shoebox gifts to the Operation Christmas Child effort. Ward has a simple goal for 2009:
    “If possible, I'd like to send out one more shoe box than we did last year,” she said.
    Ward and a group of volunteers began collecting boxes of gifts at the church near East Georgia Regional Medical Center on Fair Road on Monday. As of Thursday morning, 1,746 boxes had been received. Boxes will be accepted at the church every day through Monday, including Saturday and Sunday.
    Ward said boxes come from families, kids, churches, schools and civic organizations all around the area.
    “We have a school from Effingham County that delivers their shoe boxes decorated with special decals,” Ward said.
    Each box is designated by age group and for a boy or a girl. Gifts include basic items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, pencils and paper. The boxes also have books, candy, perhaps clothing and some toys.
    “Volunteering on this is my way of giving back just a little bit,” said Charlene Mann, who also is a member of First Presbyterian. “One of these boxes brings so much joy to boys and girls around the world who are living in conditions we can't imagine.”
    Ward's daughter Jamie Ward is the Southeast Georgia area coordinator for the project. She oversees 29 counties from Soperton to St. Mary's in helping churches or other groups organize their own Operation Christmas Child efforts.
    “All church denominations participate as do many civic groups and individuals,” Jamie Ward said.
    After volunteers at First Presbyterian ready each shoebox, it is packed in a larger box. The larger boxes are then loaded into the back of a 53-foot long trailer sitting in front of the church, which will be driven to Atlanta next week. From there, the shoe box gifts will be sorted and sent using whatever means necessary - sea containers, trucks, trains, airplanes, boats, camels, even dog sled s- to reach children around the world.
    “This is a great opportunity to teach kids in America about generosity, compassion and bringing hope to children living in difficult places around the world,” Janet Ward said. “Those who help at the Statesboro drop-off location find it fun to watch as gift-filled shoe boxes stack up that have been donated by our generous community.”
    All gifts appropriate for children are accepted and Ward said the group would gladly put the gifts in a shoebox if donors don't have one.
    “It's an easy way to spread our good fortune around the world in a very Christ-like way,” she said.
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