Shoebox donors give with their heart and sole

Published 10:49 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

LINDEN — Everyone knows that good things come in small packages, but who would know that Christmas joy can come from a shoebox?

Marengo Countians certainly did, filling 8,957 shoeboxes with gifts for needy children around the world.

Those shoeboxes were a part of Samaritan Purse’s Operation: Christmas Child Shoebox Project. Donations from church groups and individuals came pouring into the Bethel Baptist Association building in Linden, which served as a collection center for this area.

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Volunteers in Linden would take the shoeboxes or shoebox-sized containers, load them into a larger carton, seal it and affix a sticker indicating how many boxes were in that particular cart on.

The 8,957 boxes taken in by the Bethel Baptist Association is a hefty 13.6 percent more than last year’s total of 7,887. Those boxes were filled with toys, games and cards as well as hygiene products and other necessities. The cartons were loaded into a tractor-trailer on Monday and trucked to the regional processing center in Atlanta.

As a regional center, Atlanta receives shoebox greetings from all over the South, numbering up to 7.5 million last year. From Atlanta, the gifts are sent all over the world.

Once in Atlanta, the cartons are unloaded and opened by volunteers, who go through each box to make sure they are properly packed. They take out the $7 asked for to help cover shipping costs and reseal the shoeboxes.

“They will put them on a palette according to age groups,” said area coordinator June Humble. “Then, they will shrink-wrap it, and they’ll put all of those for age 2 to 4 on one side of the work table, a big, long table. And, 8,000 to 10,000 workers work in Atlanta every year.

“They would reach behind them and go all through the box and give it to somebody working on the floor, and anything that is not supposed to be in there goes into a big container. In the middle of the table is a bucket of gifts and candy. They want every shoebox to be totally filled to the top. If it’s not filled, fill it up. Then, the close the box and send it on a conveyor and send it along the line.”

After that, they separate the boxes further by gender and age and ship them to the airport or by sea. Last year, 98 percent of this area’s boxes were sent to India.

“We became a collection center in 2006,” said Humble, who has worked with the project for 13 years. “This is the third year we’ve served as the collection center, but we’ve been doing the shoeboxes for a long time. We’ve had kids grow up with it.”

Samaritan Purse is an international relief organization based in Boone, N.C., and led by Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

Marengo Countians came together to send almost 9,000 shoebox gift packages around the world to help make needy children’s Christmas that much more enjoyable. It just shows that you can give a big gift in a small package.