By Amanda Boston
This Christmas you can demonstrate God’s love to children suffering in poverty-stricken places with a shoebox and some help from Operation Christmas Child (OCC).
Since 1993, OCC has distributed more than 146 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children throughout the world. OCC is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief and evangelism organization led by Franklin Graham.
How does OCC work? You start with a standard size cardboard shoebox or store-bought plastic shoebox. Next, determine whether the shoebox is intended for a boy or girl and choose an age category: 2-4 years old, 5-9 years old or 10-14 years old.
Then pack the box with the appropriate gender and age-related items such as school supplies, toys and hygiene items. You may also include a personal note and photo. A list of suggested gifts, as well as prohibited items, can be found at OCC’s website https://www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. Next, you can print a mailing label from the OCC website, but be sure to include in the shoebox a $9 donation to cover the shipping cost. If you would like to track your shoebox to its destination, you can donate the $9 shipping cost online and print out a pre-paid mailing label with barcode tracking.
Lastly, take your shoebox to the nearest drop-off location during OCC’s National Collection Week—Monday, November 13 through Monday, November 20. Drop-off times vary with each location. For specific drop-off hours of operation, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations/.
This year several churches in the Greater Brandon Area are collection sites: The Chapel at FishHawk in Lithia, RiverStone Church in Gibsonton, Horizon Christian Church in Valrico, Bell Shoals Baptist at Apollo Beach, Shiloh Baptist Church in Plant City and First Baptist Church of Dover.
Jennifer Griest is a Riverview resident and the team leader for the drop-off location at RiverStone Church. The homeschooling mom of four has been packing boxes with her children for eight years. Griest explained that she loves how a simple shoebox carries a message far beyond the tangible items included.
“At the shoebox distribution events around the world, the children hear the gospel presented and are given a copy of the Greatest Gift Gospel storybook that shares the message of salvation,” said Griest.
She continued, “Living in a first world country, we see more wealth than poverty and these children truly have nothing. The contents of this box may cost us a few lattes, but it could be all they ever receive.”