Operation Christmas Child spreading cheer worldwide

WHEELING – This year, thousands of underprivileged children worldwide will receive a gift-filled shoebox for Christmas thanks to the efforts of Operation Christmas Child and its volunteers. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a program that was started in 1993 by Samaritan’s Purse, a charitable Christian organization that also helps with disaster relief services around the world.

Volunteers spread Christmas cheer by packing shoe boxes filled with gifts such as toys, school supplies, hygiene products, and clothes. Network and Collection Center Coordinator Debbie Miller said that gifters are encouraged to include school supplies, because they can be expensive and hard to obtain in poverty-stricken nations. She also noted that stuffed animals are appreciated.

“A lot of these kids are orphans. They don’t get that family connection, they need something to hold onto,” said Miller.

Gifters are also encouraged to write a personal note to the child to give them the option of writing back. The children work with ministry partners from their area to translate their letters.

The Ohio Valley’s collection center is located in Wheeling at Warwood Christian Church. The church has been a collection center for eight years, though they started helping out with the program long before that. Relay centers are located in St. Clairsville, Hannibal, Woodsfield, Bethesda, Steubenville, New Cumberland, and Wellsburg.

Miller stated that the success of OCC in the Ohio Valley is achieved thanks to the help of volunteers who contribute to the program.

“It all runs on volunteer work and the volunteers around here have been amazing,” she said.

The Ohio Valley managed to collect over 5,200 shoeboxes which will be sent to Boone, North Carolina. There, Samaritan’s Purse will add a small booklet about the story of Jesus Christ (in the child’s native language) to every shoebox and package them for international shipping. At least 200,000 of the shoeboxes collected nationwide will be shipped to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

National Collection Week for OCC was held Nov. 18-25. Although collection week is over for the year, anyone who wants to donate a shoebox can still do so by building one online. Go to samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child and build a box for just $30. A $7 shipping donation will also allow participants to see where their shoebox is headed. Si Robertson, star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” endorsed OCC by issuing a challenge to get 25,000 shoeboxes built on the website before Christmas.

More relay centers and volunteers are still needed locally. Anyone who wants to get involved can contact Debbie Miller at 277-3539 or Becky Weigand at 277-4560.

Warner may be reached at mwarner@timesleaderonline.com.