The world's largest Christmas project, Operation Christmas Child, will get underway this coming week, November 12-19, and two area churches are making sure children around the world will have a Merry Christmas thanks in part to the residents of Hawkins County.
First Baptist Church of Surgoinsville and New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Church Hill will be bustling with activity as hundreds of shoe boxes packed full of gifts for less fortunate kids overseas are dropped off by local families and individuals.
For many children, these will be the only gifts they receive, and the national organizers of Operation Christmas Child said this year will be a milestone, as they have deliver packages to more than 100 million children since 1993.
Since the program began through non-profit Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 94 million shoe box gifts and hand-delivered them to children in more than 130 countries. This year, organizer said they hope to collect another nine million.
"Through the power of a simple gift and the message of hope through Jesus Christ, children learn they are loved and not forgotten," the organization stated in a press release.
Shoe boxes are collected for age groups including 2 to 4 year olds, 4 to 8 year olds, 8 to 12 year olds, and teenagers. Those who participate by filling a box with non-perishable, non-liquid items may specify the age group for whom they are donating to, as well as specify Boy or Girl on the package. In addition, those who donate are asked to include a monetary donation for overseas shipping. Persons who would rather make a monetary donation may also bring it to the drop off locations and help pay for shipping on boxes that have not yet been paid for.
Those who plan to donate a filled shoe box are asked to include items such as school supplies, hard candies, toys, coloring books and pencils, necessities such as bar soap, toothpaste, and washcloths, along with a letter of encouragement for the child who will receive it.
Any liquids, including chocolates, should not be included. War-related material and items such as toy guns are also not permitted.
Step-by-step shoe box packing instructions are available at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/occ
Hawkins County volunteers, who are part of the Tri Cities area OCC team, are preparing for the collection of more than 1,660 boxes to add to a total of 15,000 boxes front the region.
The Surgoinsville collection site is located at First Baptist Church, 510 Old Stage Rd., and will be open Mon, Nov. 12: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Tues, Nov. 13: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Wed, Nov. 14: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Thur, Nov. 15: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Fri, Nov. 16: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sat, Nov. 17: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun, Nov. 18: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.; and Mon, Nov. 19: 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.
The Church Hill Collection site at New Life Missionary Baptist is located at 202 Goshen Valley Rd., and will be open Mon, Nov. 12: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Tues, Nov. 13: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Wed, Nov. 14: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Thur, Nov. 15: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Fri, Nov. 16: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat, Nov. 17: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Sun, Nov. 18: 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Mon, Nov. 19: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Additional local collection sites can be found using the online Zip Code locator at http://samaritanspurse.org
or by calling (800) 353-5949.
Anyone may drop off a packed shoe box at the Surgoinsville-area or Church Hill- area locations. Then, using whatever means necessary - trucks, trains, boats, bikes and even elephants - the shoe box gifts will be hand-delivered around the world.
Operation Christmas Child uses tracking technology to allow participants to "follow" their box to the destination country where it will be given to a child in need. To register shoe box gifts and find out the destination country, use the "Follow Your Box" donation form also found at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/occ
For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call (615) 778-0046 or visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/occ
. National Collection Week for gift-filled shoe boxes is Nov. 12-19; however, shoe box gifts are collected all year at the Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C.