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Items collected for Operation Christmas Child: Gift boxes to go to children overseas

As the new school year approaches, Linda Howard is working on a lengthy school supply list. Not for herself, but for children in need overseas.

Utilizing back-to-school sales, she and her church family at First Baptist Church are collecting school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys to pack in shoeboxes. Operation Christmas Child will deliver these gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.

Howard has been packing shoebox gifts for over 15 years, starting with one shoebox the first year.

“Each year I just wanted to do more and more,” Howard said. “I now shop year around to get the best deals on sales and clearance items so I can pack more shoeboxes to reach more children to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I’m able to be a missionary without leaving my hometown. With each box I pack, I imagine a child opening it with eyes wide and a smile. Most, having never received a gift before, treasure these shoeboxes packed with brightly-colored small toys, school supplies and hygiene items. These shoeboxes are, literally, a Godsend. It’s a tangible way to show them that God loves them. I’m hooked on the method of reaching children around the globe.”

For many children, access to these simple items is essential to an education — as it was for Luis Gonzales, a shoebox recipient raised by a single mother in the ghetto of Panama City, Panama.

“I know what it is like to not have enough money for basic school supplies,” Gonzalez, whose experience is not uncommon for many children living in poverty, said.

One day, Gonzalez received a gift-filled shoebox from Operation Christmas Child and found it filled with the school supplies he needed.

“My shoebox gift gave me the opportunity to pursue an education and taught me to never lose hope. These gifts can truly impact a child’s life forever,”  Gonzalez, who shared his story last year, said.

Those interested in participating in Operation Christmas Child can call Southern Ohio Area Team Coordinator Sherrie Klingaman at 740-395-6468, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ.

Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to 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.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham.