What began as a fun and rewarding classroom project for Big Walnut High School Spanish language students over 20 years ago has become an annual holiday tradition.
Every year, Carol Burchett’s, Dora Riggs’, and Jennifer Zimmer’s Spanish language students have been involved in Operation Christmas Child, with the added help of Burchett’s French language students.
A project of Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is an outreach program sending much-needed items to third-world children with little or no personal resources. The national program, under the direction of Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham, consists of turning a box we casually discard after purchasing a new pair of shoe into a hope-filled Christmas chest.
This year, in keeping with the long standing tradition, Big Walnut students prepared gift-filled shoe-boxes that will be delivered to First Baptist Church of Sunbury, the local drop-off point, where the boxes then join other boxes prepared by students from around the country before being shipped to children living under desperate third-world conditions.
Each gift-wrapped box is designated for either a boy or a girl. Students are then asked to choose gifts appropriate for age ranges from two to four years old, from five to nine years, and from 10 to 14.
The boxes contain items that most American young people take for granted, including: small toys (balls, dolls, harmonicas, yo-yo’s, jump ropes); school supplies (pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, writings pads or paper, calculators); hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, bar soup, comb, washcloth); and miscellaneous items (hard candy, gum, sunglasses, flashlights and batteries, ball caps, socks, watches). New last year, Operation Christmas Child asks for boxes to contain a Wow toy – like a soccer ball and pump, or a new doll.
Students are also given a list of prohibited items, including anything used, war-related toys, perishable foods, liquids, medicines and vitamins, and breakable items.
Burchett told her students that some of the shoe box recipients don’t even know where their next meal is coming from.
“These gifts of hope go to children in countries struggling to overcome the effects of war, poverty, disease, famine,” Burchett said. “Imagine children waking up on Christmas morning and getting nothing. This is an opportunity for our students to give back to those who have nothing.”
Operation Christmas Child began in the United States in 1993 with 28,000 shoe box gifts. Since then, the kids-helping-kids project has collected more than 124 million shoe box gifts and hand-delivered them to needy children in some 150 countries. This year’s goal is 10 million shoe boxes.
One final note: Operation Christmas Child is not just an activity for students. Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has packed an Operation Christmas Child shoe box gift.
Individuals, families, churches, and groups fill empty shoe boxes with gifts of toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and notes of encouragement.
During National Collection Week, November 16-23, Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoe boxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
The Sunbury area drop-off point is First Baptist Church of Sunbury, 12259 Old 3C Highway, Sunbury.
The drop-off hours that week will be:
* Monday, November 14: 9 a.m. – 12-noon
* Tuesday, November 15: 9 a.m. – 12-noon
* Wednesday, November 16: 9 a.m. to 12-noon; 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
* Thursday, November 17: 9 a.m. to 12-noon; 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
* Friday, November 18: 9 a.m. – 12-noon
* Saturday, November 19: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
* Sunday, November 20: 12-noon – 6 p.m.
* Monday, November 21: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
For additional information about how to get involved in Operation Christmas Child as an individual or group go to < samaritanspurse.org >, or log on to the First Baptist Church Sunbury website at < fbcsunbury.org >.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.