Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child began on Monday, with people bringing their shoeboxes full of gifts for children around the world to area collection centers.
Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical organization led by Franklin Graham. Participants fill shoeboxes as they would a care package, with small toys or games, hygiene needs, small books and other items.
Operation Christmas Child was created in 1990 by Dave Cooke and his wife Gill for children in Romania. Each November, thousands of churches, schools, groups and individual donors prepare and collect shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items and other small gifts.
First Baptist Church of Princeton will be collecting shoeboxes throughout the week and early next week. The boxes it collects will be placed on a semi trailer on Monday to be shipped to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they will be processed and sent to children around the world in time for Christmas.
“During this week, all the different churches from the area will be dropping their boxes off to us as a drop-off center,” said Land Between the Lakes Area coordinator Ruth Gray. “Then, we’ll be putting them in cartons, and when they get into the cartons, they go on the semi trailer that is parked on our back parking lot.
“Then, on Monday, all of the collection centers from the different areas will be bringing their cartons, and we’ll be putting those cartons onto the semi.’
Collection centers in Madisonville, Greenville and Herndon in Christian County will bring their completed cartons to Princeton’s First Baptist Church to be loaded up to be sent to Charlotte as well.
Gray said that anyone can take part in building a shoebox without being a member of a church.
“It can be a community, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fellowship of Christian Athletes — it could also be a business or just an individual,” she said. “This may be the only gift (the children) will receive in their lifetime, from Operation Christmas Child.”
Each package must also have a $9 processing fee, which also helps to train workers overseas as well as pay postage for the package.
First Baptist Church of Princeton at 300 W. Main St. will take completed shoeboxes from 9 a.m. to noon today (Wednesday); from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday; from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday; and from 8 to 10 a.m. on Monday.
“But if somebody forgot, we usually go to a processing center, so if they wanted to bring a box or two by late, we would still accept those, too,” Gray said.
Last year, First Baptist Church collected 4,574 shoeboxes locally and 9,341 from other collection centers across the region.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 178 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.