By Bonnie Mentel

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization under the leadership of Franklin Graham, that provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

“What we do with Operation Christmas Child is we collect gift-filled shoeboxes to send to hurting and needy children around the world in the name of Jesus,” said Regional Area Coordinator, Jon Brigner.

Last year, 10 million shoeboxes were collected worldwide, with 45,000 collected locally. Those millions of shoeboxes were distributed to 150 countries around the world.

“There is an option to follow your box. You can go online to and click on the ‘Follow Your Box’ link. You can print labels with bar codes on them that you can put on top of your box. When you put in your financial donation, you will be directed to print out the labels; the PDF documents where you can track your box. When you turn it in, it gets scanned. When it gets shipped out, it get scanned where it’s going to go and you get an email that says which country it went to,” Brigner said.

People need to include basic items such as hygiene items and school supplies when they pack the shoebox. The website provides a list of items to pack.

“We are focusing on including at least one ‘wow’ item; an item that a child around the world will open it up and say, “wow!’ Like, a beautiful stuffed animal or a soccer ball with a pump, things like that,” he said.

The week of November 16-23 is when Operation Christmas Child’s national collection will take place. There are 23 different drop-off locations in the four-county area (Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas). The collection sites in the Brandon area include: Horizon Christian Church in Valrico, Fishhawk Fellowship Church in Lithia, and First Baptist Church of Dover. There is also a shoebox drop-off locater online. Participants type in their zip code and the closest drop-off locations will be displayed.

“I’m excited about seeing the movement of the Lord through this project. This project is not just about getting a child a gift, it’s a tool for them to receive the Gospel message. With each one of these boxes they receive a booklet called ‘The Greatest Gift of All.’ It’s the story of Jesus from Genesis to the ascension. Those are distributed with each one of the shoeboxes and there’s a Gospel presentation that goes along with the distribution,” said Brigner.

The ministry is currently praying for more teachers to be trained to lead a 12-week discipleship program called The Greatest Journey. The Greatest Journey takes them through who Jesus is, how to have a relationship with Him, and how to share the gift of Jesus to friends and family. When they complete the discipleship class they receive a New Testament in their own language and a certificate of completion.

Other volunteer opportunities are available at each of the collection sites. John and Julie Brigner are available for questions at 727-5549. Visit

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