OPERATION: Christmas Child

Published 6:16 pm Friday, October 7, 2011

Operation Christmas Child is in full swing after a Sept. 20 launch party at Linden Baptist Church that welcomed 81 people. This holiday season marks the 14th year for the Operation Christmas Child in Marengo County, an annual occurrence that began when current collection center coordinator June Humble worked on the project with the members of First Baptist Church in Demopolis.

That was 1997. It was only four years later that Linden became a relay center for the operation, collecting more than 1,000 boxes from local samaritans that year.

“We had 1,187 boxes from area people, churches and organizations,” Humble recalled.

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Five years later, Linden’s relay center became a collection center drawing donations from six communities around the Black Belt.

“A collection center consists of relay centers that bring their boxes to a collection center, where they are put on a large truck and taken to Atlanta to the processing center,” Humble said. “In 2006, we became a collection center and we have six relay centers that feed into Linden. They are Butler, Camden, Grove Hill, Livingston, Marion and Selma.”

The project, which began through Samaritan’s Purse, has quickly developed a foothold in west Alabama. The rapidity of the project’s growth helped Humble to realize a goal last year when Linden took in the largest collection of boxes it has seen to date.

“In 2010, we had 10,705,” Humble said. “It was an answer to a prayer and it was just a highlight and something I had been praying for for many years; that we could get over 10,000.”

Operation Christmas Child collected some 8.17 million shoebox gifts in 2010, a prosperous year for the endeavor that came despite a scuffling economy.

That level of benevolence is indicative of the same concern and motivations that have kept Humble involved in the project for so many years.

“Love for the world’s poorest children,” Humble said of what motivates her and others to take an active part in Operation Christmas Child.

The local operation has expanded to touch churches in a seven-county area. Still, Humble realizes how much more joy can be brought to those in need.

“Still, we haven’t touched all the churches. All churches and organizations and schools are not participating. Every year we are able to have more because of promotion,” Humble said. “We have three area team members; one in Greene County, one in Marengo County and one in Hale County. And they are doing a marvelous job of recruiting new churches. We had many new churches last year because of them and are hoping to have more this year. They recruit with decorated shoeboxes given to them by Operation Christmas Child to recruit churches.”

The shoebox is uniquely a part of Operation Christmas Child, having become so much a part of the work that the initiative’s logo consists of a shoebox with airplane wings.

“These boxes are used to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Each child that receives a box gets a booklet in its own language called The Greatest Gift of All,” Humble said. “Statistics tells us that book is read by the person who receives the box and four others. Since we have been collecting boxes in Linden, we have sent 54,711 boxes throughout the world. That number times four, that many people have received the good news.”

Churches, social organizations and groups can put together and turn in boxes until Nov. 14 through Nov. 20.

That will be the collection week for the local operation with collections being taken every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

“We use regular shoe boxes wrapped in Christmas paper. The most popular shoe box are the plastic ones because they don’t have to be wrapped and you can get more in them. And that gives these people who receive these boxes an extra tool to work with and an extra gift,” Humble said. “People who do follow-up with Samartian’s Purse have seen (plastic) boxes being used to carry water.”

Items that can be packaged in the boxes include necessities such as underwear, socks, T-shirts, drinking cups and toiletries such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, nail clippers, deodorant and wash cloths.

Additionally, samaritans can send school supplies, coloring books, flashlights with batteries, ziplock bags of hard candy, gum, stickers, wind-up toys, sunglasses, travel games and other such items.

Items to be excluded are medicines, liquids, glass or breakable items, chocolate and perishable food items, used or worn items and toys reminiscent of war such as knives, guns and soldiers.

“If they want any information, they can call me (289-1954) or the Bethel Baptist Association in Linden. Their number is 295-8805,” Humble said.