Operation Christmas Child connects youths around the world with gifts, personal items

COURTESY OF SAMARITANS PURSE - Children from the Philippines are all smiles during the shoebox distribution for Operation Christmas Child.

Clackamas Valley Baptist Church is inviting the community to support children around the globe during the upcoming holiday season.

Church parishioners will once again participate in Operation Christmas Child, which connects underprivileged children in different countries with Christmas gifts and literature on Christianity. Founded by Samaritan's Purse in 1993, more than 146 million children have recieved gifts through the program since its inception. For many, this gift is the first one they have ever received.

Through Operation Christmas Child, collection sites — also known as relay centers — around the world gather shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, school supplies and information about the story of Jesus for children in more than 150 countries and territories. Once the donations have been gathered at local relay centers, they're processed and sent to their recipients around the world. Samaritan's Purse has volunteers in 100 countries such as Cambodia, Fiji and Malawi, who connect underprivileged children with the shoeboxes in the area they're serving.

Clackamas Valley Baptist Church has participated in Operation Christmas Child for 16 years and is the COURTESY OF SAMARITANS PURSE - Children from Romania eagerly peak inside a shoebox during an Operation Christmas Child event during a previous year of the program. closest relay site for Estacada, Colton, Sandy and the Villages at Mount Hood. Those interested in participating in the program this year are encouraged to drop off donations at the church, 29275 S.E. Eagle Creek Road, through Monday, Nov. 20. Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Nov. 16; 5-7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17; 1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18-19; and until 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 20.

"(The) shoebox can make a big difference in a kid's life," said Pam Ellis, a parishoner at Clackamas Valley Baptist Church and one of the program's coordinators.

Individual items or entire shoeboxes can be dropped off at relay centers. Participants are encouraged to fill shoeboxes with toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Toothpaste, war-related items, seeds, food, liquids, lotions, vitamins, breakable items or aerosol cans should not be included.

Ellis encouraged participants to follow their instincts when putting their shoeboxes together.

"Don't second guess yourself," she said. "If you feel in your heart that you want to put it in (the box), put it in. You never know what the kid on the other end needs or is hoping for."

Those who are unable to make it to a relay center or prefer to shop online can visit, select a child's age and gender and pack a virtual shoebox for her or him.

Last year, Clackamas Valley Baptist Church collected 12,00 shoeboxes from Estacada and the surrounding areas. Around the world, almost 11.5 million shoeboxes were collected.

"We're thrilled with what we got last year, and we're praying for higher numbers this year," Ellis said. "We're excited to collect as many boxes as we can."

Ellis encouraged anyone interested in getting involved with Operation Christmas Child to do so.

"It's not just a church thing. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, ladies clubs or individuals can participate," she said. "If you've never participated, give it a try. It makes your heart feel good."

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