MIAMI COUNTY — As Thanksgiving Day approaches, local volunteers are expressing their holiday spirit by collecting gifts in the shape of shoeboxes during Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.
During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, which spans Nov. 12-19, volunteers will collect shoeboxes filled with toys, clothing, school supplies, hygiene items, and more, at assigned drop-off locations to ship to children all over the world.
The program was founded in the United Kingdom by Dave and Jill Cooke in 1990. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, expanding the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children in the partnership’s first year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to an estimated 157 million children in over 160 countries and territories.
Robin Oda, north Dayton collections center coordinator and member of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, says the church has been involved in the drive “for close to 20 years.” Grace Baptist Church will be receiving shoebox donations during posted hours through Monday, Nov. 19.
“It’s just so much fun,” Oda said. “We have people of all sorts who drop in with boxes. You have individuals that might bring in just a couple, but then we get bigger organizations, like a church that came in last night with 360 shoeboxes.”
In 2017, the Grace Baptist location collected approximately 3,000 to 4,000 shoeboxes, as part of the approximately 16,000 shoeboxes gathered by the entire north Dayton collections center.
“We have a dozen other churches in our area who are also drop-off locations,” Oda confirmed.
More than 150,000 U.S. volunteers, including families, churches and other groups, are involved in this year’s effort, and Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect enough Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts this holiday season to reach 11 million children.
“On Sunday, everybody will stay after church and help put all the shoeboxes into cartons to load into a semi,” Oda said. We have it down to a science now, and it’ll be done in 30 minutes. I just think it is a fantastic hands-on missions project, and it’s something that anyone can be part of. For many of these kids, it might be the only Christmas present they ever receive, so volunteer efforts every single year are important.”
Miami County drop-off locations include Grace Baptist Church in Troy and Upper Room Worship Center in Tipp City.
Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. On the Operation Christmas Child web page, users may select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.
For drop-off hours and more information, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.