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Speaker will kick off ‘gift’ project

Christmas comes only once a year, but the spirit of giving lives in the hearts of the First Baptist Church’s congregation yearround.

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Christmas comes only once a year, but the spirit of giving lives in the hearts of the First Baptist Church’s congregation yearround.

The kickoff for this year’s Christmas toy drive will begin Aug. 22 when representatives of the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child program give a special presentation during that Sunday’s sermon.

This is the third year the First Baptist Church has participated in the toy drive that delivers Christmas gifts packed in shoe boxes to underprivileged children around the world.

"A couple of years ago, I read Franklin Graham’s biography and he mentioned this program, so we sent away for some information," Mrs. Stone said. "That year, we filled 154 boxes. Last year, we filled 260. This year, we are aiming for 400 boxes."

Increased interest in the shoe box program might have been sparked because of a special presentation by Mary Damron last year, said Janet Stone, event organizer.

Mrs. Damron, an Ike’s Fork, W.Va., native began working with Franklin Graham’s Christmas program in 1994.

"She’s from this little place up some hollow in West Virginia," Mrs. Stone said. "She was so touched by this project that she just started out and asked her neighbors to fill up shoe boxes. She packed up 1,600 boxes and took them to North Carolina to deliver them to Mr. Graham. It’s just amazing."

Since that year, Mrs. Damron has continued her work with the program and has personally delivered Christmas gifts to children in Bosnia and Kosovo, Mrs. Stone said.

Her stories about giving can touch the hardest of hearts, she added.

"We had her here last year and everybody has said that she is just the most dynamic speaker," Mrs. Stone said. "Everybody who has heard her in person has been challenged in some way. She touches your heart."

When Mrs. Damron speaks Aug. 20, she probably will mention her experiences in Kosovo.

Her stories of Bosnia touched the heart of Glenna Rife, church secretary, and she said she looks forward to this year’s presentation.

"She has a tremendous way of telling you about the people she’s met," Mrs. Rife said. "People were so touched by what she had to say they wanted her to come back again this year. She told us about one little girl in a Bosnian hospital who had not talked since the bombing."

That child did not respond the first time Mrs. Damron presented her with a shoe box, but she did the second time, Mrs. Rife said.

When the child saw a pair of pink shoes in the last box, the little girl’s eyes lit up and she hugged Mrs. Damron and thanked her, Mrs. Rife said.

"That kind of thing, the personal stories of how children are touched by things that people here have provided," she said. "She is just a tremendous inspiration of what you can do if you really want to help."

And, although the thought of mistletoe and snowmen seem a little far away in these 100 degree days, Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Rife said they have already begun their search for Christmas presents.

"I’ve been buying stuff on sale since last year," Mrs. Stone said. "We have to have all of the gifts in by Nov. 1 to give Samaritan’s Purse enough time to deliver them."

Everyone is welcome to attend the Aug. 22 church services, Mrs. Stone said. Mary Damron will speak at the morning worship service, which begins at 9:45 a.m.