Local shoebox gift drive helps children worldwide

Published 6:31 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

LINDEN – Good things come in small packages, and thanks to donations from Marengo County citizens, needy children around the world will have a Merry Christmas with gifts placed inside a shoebox.

On Monday, Samaritan Purse, an international relief organization based in Boone, N.C., will begin collecting the boxes for Operation: Christmas Child Shoebox Project through its local collection point at the Bethel Baptist Association at 308 Coats Ave. East in Linden.

People who want to donate a shoebox for someone in need should first find a 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 should put in soap, toothbrushes, hygiene items and toys,” said Southeast Region manager April Mack. “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 donors to add $7 for each shoebox to help cover shipping and other project costs.

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

The boxes will be taken in at the Bethel Baptist Association Monday through Sunday, Nov. 23, during Samaritan Purse’s National Collection Week. Collection times are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. next Sunday.

“We collected 7,887 boxes last year,” Humble said. “Monday should be a very exciting time for us, when people bring their shoeboxes.”

Samaritan’s Purse is led by Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham. The organization suggests sending school supplies, toys, hard candy and clothing. It also recommends 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 into 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 packages,” said Mack, who heads the Southeast Region in Atlanta. “The boxes are sent to India, Africa, China, Peru and Ecuador.”

For more information, call the Bethel Baptist Association office at 295-8805.