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Christmas donation drive kicking off

PROVIDENCE — The Christmas spirit involves giving and sharing — not just running out and buying presents for our friends and family, but in giving of ourselves to others who are less fortunate. There is a way that area citizens can reach out to children who do without, and the present is no larger than a shoebox.

Operation: Christmas Child kicked off at the Providence Baptist Church last night with a dinner for volunteers and other workers involved in the project. It is an arm of Samaritan’s Purse, a worldwide relief organization.

“People pack shoeboxes, and they are sent to the world’s poorest children,” said June Humble, the area coordinator. “The relay center is here in Linden, at the Baptist Bethel Association office on Coats Avenue, but we work with centers in Butler, Camden, Grove Hill, Selma and Livingston.”

Humble said that the collection center will collect shoeboxes from donators during National Collection Week, Nov. 17-24.

“That’s when people come to pack the boxes and work at our collection center,” she said.

Samaritan Purse is an international relief organization based in Boone, N.C., led by its president, Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham. Marengo County is a part of the organization’s southeast region, based in Atlanta.

People who want to donate a shoebox for someone in need should first find a standard shoebox or similar-sized container, then determine if they want to give to a boy or a girl and choose an age category: 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14. Then, they should fill the shoebox or container with gifts.

“Typically, people have put in soap, toothbrushes, hygiene items and toys,” said April Mack, the regional manager. “People should not put in chocolate or any liquids. The chocolate can melt, and liquids can get all over everything. People have also put in dolls and school supplies.”

The organization also asks donators to add $7 for each shoebox to help cover shipping and other project costs.

Samaritan Purse suggests sending school supplies, toys, hard candy and clothing. They also recommend sending a note to the child in a separate envelope and a photo of yourself and your family.

Once the boxes and containers come to the collection center in Linden, they are checked through by volunteers, packaged and loaded onto trucks to be taken to Atlanta, where tens of thousands of volunteers work at the warehouse for three weeks preparing the packages for shipping around the world.

“Last year, we sent more than 7.5 million boxes,” said Mack. “Many of them are still being distributed. The boxes are sent to India, Africa, China, Peru, Ecuador — last year, we sent them to Timbuktu.”

Humble asked that people wait until the collection week to begin turning in their donated boxes.

“That’s when everything comes together,” she said.

Information pamphlets are available through the Baptist Bethel Association office on Coats Avenue in Linden. For more information, contact June Humble at (334) 289-1954.