shoebox gifts

GIFT — Volunteers at a past year's event organize Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. This year, packed shoeboxes can be dropped off at Brookside Free Methodist Church, beginning next week.

Operation Christmas Child once again has launched, and area organizers are hoping to collect more than 4,000 shoeboxes full of gifts to benefit underprivileged children.

This year, due to COVID-19, curbside drop-off will be offered during national collection week from Nov. 16 to 23 at Brookside Free Methodist Church, 190 E. 400 S., Kokomo. Teresa Waggoner, coordinator of the Kokomo Area Team, said, in addition to the boxes benefiting children, the project gives people a way to feel helpful during a time when many people are stuck at home.

“I think there are a lot of people that have just felt disconnected, and this is a way they can do something without really being out. They can do it on their own. They don’t have to be in a crowd of people. They can go out and get things, or they could order things or make things to put in shoeboxes,” said Waggoner.

Those wishing to help can do so with any regular-sized shoebox. Decide if it will be for a boy or a girl and what age range (2 to 4, 5 to 9, or 10 to 14). Then, fill it with gifts that can include everything from hygiene items and school supplies to toys and clothes.

Donors also can include a personal note and photo.

Then, donate $9 online at www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/ to cover the shipping cost, and print off a tracking label to affix to the box. Or, donors can pay the $9 in person during drop-off and receive the shipping label there.

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The boxes then are distributed to children around the world. Since 1993, more than 178 million children in more than 160 countries have received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. The project is put on across the country annually, and the Kokomo area generally contributes around 4,000 shoeboxes.

This year, Waggoner is hoping to collect around 4,100 shoeboxes.

According to Abby Feller, a team member for Operation Christmas Child, the project is as important as ever this year as the world grapples with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need is the same if not greater because with the whole world being affected by COVID and everything being shut down, many organizations haven’t been able to get into counties like they normally can to provide for children in orphanages or just the less fortunate ones,” Feller said. “So the need is still there for sure, and we’re hoping to get as many shoeboxes as we can.”

Samaritanspurse.org provides a step-by-step guide on how to pack a shoebox. The boxes can be dropped off at Brookside Free Methodist Church on Nov. 16 to 18 from 9 to 12 p.m., Nov. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m., Nov. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m., Nov. 20 and 21 from 9 to 12 p.m., Nov. 22 from 12 to 4 p.m., and Nov. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m.