Shoeboxes were delivered by cart in the Philippines.

The Christmas season often prompts us to give to those who are less fortunate. With no shortage of need in our community and around the globe, local churches and nonprofit organizations have a variety of venues to help.

From donating funds to physically volunteering, a quick Internet search will list a multitude of organizations that offer an opportunity to get involved. Two such nonprofit organizations where you can share the love of Christ are here in the Greater Brandon area—one serves the local community, and the other serves the needs of those abroad.

Gift of Hope is a multi-church outreach that provides a traditional Christmas meal and Christmas gifts to families in need. These families are food insecure and often have to choose between paying an electric bill and purchasing food. For families to participate, they must reside in the Greater Brandon area and be vetted through Brandon’s Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO).

With an army of 340 volunteers, Gift of Hope served close to 600 families in 2017. During a three-day period, volunteers at the First Baptist Church of Brandon distribute meal items and help parents ‘shop’ for their children’s Christmas gifts.

This year’s distribution dates are Thursday, December 14 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, December 12 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Friday, December 15 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Volunteers must be 14 years or older (unless accompanied by an adult) and can sign up for a time slot at www.brandongiftofhope.com.

You can also help by donating food items and toys. To see a list of requested donations, please visit the Gift of Hope website. ECHO will accept donations during regular business hours. If you would rather make a monetary donation, the option to purchase a turkey is available online. For more information, email brandoncommunityoutreach@gmail.com or call 485-5604.

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) allows you to share Jesus’s love abroad by sending a gift-filled shoebox to children living in poverty. For 25 years, this ministry of Samaritan’s Purse has used a simple shoebox to spread the hope of Jesus to millions of children around the world.

OCC’s National Collection Week is Monday, November 12 through Monday, November 19. To participate, you pack a standard-size shoebox (cardboard or store-bought plastic) with hygiene items, toys and school supplies. At every shoebox distribution, children are presented with the gospel message and given a storybook called the Greatest Gift Gospel.

More information, a list of suggested gifts, as well as a list of prohibited items, can be found at OCC’s website www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. An online donation of $9 pays for the shoebox’s shipping and provides a shipping label to track where the box is delivered.

Once you have packed your shoebox, bring it to nearest drop-off location during OCC’s National Collection Week. This year several churches in the Greater Brandon Area are designated as collection sites: The Chapel at FishHawk in Lithia, RiverStone Church in Gibsonton, Bell Shoals Baptist at Apollo Beach, Shiloh Baptist Church in Plant City and First Baptist Church of Dover.

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/. For questions, contact occinfo@samaritan.org.