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Area family shops for school, stocks supplies for children in need

As a new school year approaches, traditional back-to-school activities ramp up and families fill the aisles shopping for school materials, clothes and all the right digital gear to help students return to the classroom ready to learn. For many area families, however, the season for student discounts, tax-free weekends and end of summer sales present a great opportunity to help children in need.

“We are so blessed in this country,” Vickie Edwards, of Proctorville, said. “But a lot of kids don’t have schools to go to at all, or socks to wear to them, or even pencils or notepads to write with.”

Edwards, a parent of two daughters and a grandparent of three grandsons and one granddaughter, is one of more than 100,000 year-round volunteers nationwide – including six other local connect volunteers in the Ironton area – who serve with Operation Christmas Child, which delivered nearly 10 million gift-filled shoeboxes last year in more than 100 countries to children struggling from war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution. The shoebox gifts included toys, school supplies and basic hygiene items.

Edwards shops for shoebox gifts year-round and for hundreds of shoebox gifts filled locally she coordinates fundraisers to pay the shipping costs.

This November, Operation Christmas Child volunteers like Edwards will support thousands of drop-off sites nationwide, where gift-filled shoeboxes will be collected and transported with a wide variety of resources, including bicycles, camels and canoes. Each shoebox will eventually be hand-delivered to a child in need. For many children, this represents the first gift they have ever received.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 113 million children in more than 150 countries. In 2014, Operation Christmas Child hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 10 million children.

For more information about how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call Gaylene St. Leger Cox at 330-904-5873 or visit samaritanspurse.org. National Collection Week for gift-filled shoeboxes is Nov. 17-24; however, shoebox gifts are collected all year at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C. Participants can also build a shoebox through an online tool offering a personalized and convenient way to send a gift to a child in one of the hardest-to-reach countries.

Using special tracking technology, participants can follow their boxes online and discover the country to which their gifts will be delivered to children in need. To register a shoebox gift, use the online donation form at samaritanspurse.org.