Operation Christmas Child

A girl in the African nation of Namibia smiles as she opens up a shoebox given to her as part of Samaritan Purse's Operation Christmas Child. Over 178 million children in over 150 countries have received gifts as part of the program since 1993.

Every year, different groups across the country and around the world make efforts to help those less fortunate during the winter holiday season. One such annual effort is Operation Christmas Child, a program founded by Samaritan's Purse to help bring gifts to children around the globe.

According to the group's website, Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

“The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ,” said Samaritan's Purse on its website.

The group said over 178 million children in more than 150 countries have received gifts through Operation Christmas Child since 1993. Gifts that are passed out as part of the effort come in the form of shoeboxes packed with gifts and necessities for children of different ages.

Local support

Churches are one of the biggest contributors to Operation Christmas Child, and this year three local institutions in Limestone County are aiding the cause as drop-off locations. They are First Baptist Church in Ardmore (26670 Fifth St., Ardmore), Clements Baptist Church (8690 U.S. 72, Athens) and New Hope Baptist Church (13110 Mooresville Road Athens).

Amanda Shaw, who heads the project at First Baptist in Ardmore, said this is the second year the church has been a drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child. She said they took over from another church who could no longer fulfill the role.

“It's a lot of work, but it's very rewarding,” Shaw said. “There are no words. It's a blessing to be a part of this ministry and to see how God uses people in this area to pack boxes for kids around the world. It brings tears to my eyes to see all boxes.”

Shaw said there is a group of 10-12 churches from southern Tennessee and northern Limestone County that bring shoeboxes to their drop-off location. She said First Baptist took in 2,759 boxes last year.

“If you've never packed a box, try it one year,” she said. “You can track where it goes. You can fill a shoebox with so much, and it's such a blessing.”

Shoeboxes are being accepted through Nov. 23. See the accompanying graphic for times and dates at each of the three local drop-off locations.

Tips for shoeboxes

Samaritan's Purse has a step-by-step guide at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/pack-a-shoe-box/ to help people who are new to the project fill shoeboxes.

Steps include deciding whether the box is for a boy or girl and what age group. Samaritan's Purse advises putting one medium to large “wow” item like a stuffed animal or a soccer ball with a pump in the box and then filling it with other fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items.

Shaw suggests thinking about what you would like to give to someone you know that is a boy or girl of the same age while choosing items for a box.

New Hope Baptist Church

13110 Mooresville Road, Athens

Thu, Nov. 19: 3 to 6 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 20: 10 a.m. to noon

Sat, Nov. 21: 10 a.m. to noon

Sun, Nov. 22: 1 to 6 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 23: 9 to 11 a.m.

Clements Baptist Church

8690 U.S. 72, Athens

Thu, Nov. 19: 5 to 8 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 20: 2 to 6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 21: 9 to 11 a.m.

Sun, Nov. 22: 1 to 5 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 23: 8 to 10 a.m.

First Baptist Church

26670 Fifth Street, Ardmore

Thu, Nov. 19: 4 to 7 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 20: 33 to 6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 21: 10 a.m. to noon

Sun, Nov. 22: 2 to 4 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 23: 9 to 11 a.m.

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