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Shoebox gift drive kicking off

The Bethel Baptist Association is preparing for this year’s Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation: Christmas Child. The kickoff event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. at Linden Baptist Church.

The kickoff event is a way to tell people what the project is all about and how they can take part.

Operation: Christmas Child is a project where volunteers place gifts in a shoebox or shoebox-sized container and bring them to one of several collection points in west Alabama. The boxes are then shipped to the regional center in Atlanta, where they are sent to needy children around the world.

“Samaritan’s Purse is a worldwide relief organization that is at work in nearly all countries, bringing all kinds of relief to hurting people,” said June Humble, the collection center coordinator. “They do this by building houses for people in where people have lost homes to earthquake, fire, flood or other means.

“There is an arm of Samaritan’s Purse called Operation: Christmas Child Shoebox Project. Because Samaritan’s Purse is already recognized in these countries, they bring in shoeboxes to the poorest children in the world to reach them for Christ, to spread the gospel.”

Along with each shoebox filled with toys is a little book written in that child’s native language called “The Greatest Gift of All,” the story of the life of Jesus.

The story is read to children when they gather to receive the presents. The children often share the book with their parents and families.

Linden has been a relay center for the shoebox presents for 13 years, and has been a collection center for the last four, gathering shoebox presents from collection spots in Marion, Butler, Grove Hill, Selma, Camden and Livingston.

Last year, shoeboxes collected in Linden were sent to countries like Benin, India and Ghana.

The 2009 kickoff event at Linden Baptist Church is a way for people to learn more about this ministry.

“This is to invite people to come for the first time — or if you’ve been there for many times — to hear about Operation: Christmas Child and how it works,” Humble said. “Jamie Hardenbrook, the director of the Southeast region office in Atlanta, will be the speaker. He has been with Samaritan’s Purse for a good many years. He has traveled to many countries to personally hand out these shoeboxes.”

Refreshments will be served at the kickoff event, and there is no admission charge. Information will be provided about the organization and how to make a shoebox donation.