Operation Christmas Child

Published 12:10 am Saturday, November 13, 2010

Each year, Operation Christmas Child sends millions of goody-filled shoeboxes to children in over 130 countries under the umbrella of founding organization Samaritan’s Purse.

First United Methodist Church of Demopolis took up that mantle five years ago with the help of Joyce Hitt.

“She got the feeling and said this would be a good thing for our church to do,” Vicki Wilson, who now leads FUMC’s Operation Christmas Child project, said.

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“Over the last five years the church has seen its giving increase exponentially.

“We’ve tripled and quadrupled every year,” Wilson said.

However, this year ministry may miss its goal amid difficult economic conditions that have served to slow the momentum of the initiative within the church.

“I think economic times have hit us pretty hard,” Wilson said. “We’ve got almost 300 (shoeboxes) now. I don’t know that we will get to our goal by Sunday.”

As a church, First United Methodist initially set its aim to collect 525 shoeboxes by Sunday. That goal is broken down among different groups within the church.

Among those groups is the Pairs and Spares Class, whose Operation Christmas Child work is headed up by Willy Hill.

“I guess our class is the biggest pusher of it,” Hill said.

The Pairs and Spares have set their goal at 150 boxes by Sunday, Nov. 14.

“We do three different age groups for boys and girls,” Hill said of the shoeboxes, which are broken down to be geared toward children aged 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14.

Individuals contributing boxes fill them with any number of small items ranging from crayons to cars to hard candy. The boxes are wrapped and eventually shipped overseas to needy children.

“We put anything in there from calculators to pens to notebooks to toys,” Hill said. “The goal is to try to pack it in and get as many small items as you can in there.”

Hill said it is also important for contributors to keep in mind where the boxes may be shipped before purchasing items to fill them.

“You try to be aware of language barriers,” Hill said. “So you can’t get things with a lot of English.”

The members at First United Methodist may not reach their goal this year in terms of number of boxes donated, but organizers still recognize the impact they are helping to make by donating any boxes.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we are reaching out to those much less fortunate than us,” Wilson said. “It is very far reaching and it is kind of satisfying to know that we are touching other lives.”