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Shoebox gifts gathered locally for children worldwide

  • Charles County,St Mary's County,Calvert County
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Children at Honey MacCallum preschool in California held a shoebox packing party on November 14. Pictures supplied by OCC Southern Maryland Media Relations Coordinator Morgan Allen.

Picture 113 million shoeboxes filled with Christmas presents. Then picture that same number of shoeboxes delivered to 150 countries around the world to needy children. That’s what one organization, Samaritan’s Purse has accomplished since 1993 through a program they call Operation Christmas Child.

The non-denominational effort has a strong organization in Southern Maryland. Last year 13,000 boxes were assembled and sent off to a processing center in Charlotte, NC to be sent overseas. This year the goal is 15,000.

Southern Maryland Area Coordinators this year are Sheryl Hartsfield and her husband Cliff, who got involved through their church Southern Calvert Baptist Church in Lusby. “Our main goal is to grow,” Mrs. Hartsfield said of her coordinating efforts. That especially includes growing volunteers to work at collection centers, assist in getting out the word and a myriad of other jobs necessary for such a large logistical effort.

This year the logistics has gotten a little easier, Mrs. Hartsfield said, with the opening of a processing center in Baltimore.

The Southern Maryland Community Relations Coordinator of OCC Melissa Coker of Charles County got involved through her church when she was living in Charlotte and started by working at the processing center. There, every shoebox collected is emptied to make sure that appropriate items are included and then shoeboxes are repacked for delivery. Items that can’t be used because of shipping or perishable concerns are distributed locally to needy charities.

For a list of preferred items for the shoeboxes go to the OCC website: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/. That site also has a sign up shoebox tracking mechanism in which the donor will receive an email letting them know their box has arrived and what country it was delivered to.

Coker said that some volunteers have heard back from the children who have received their shoebox. In one case a man who specializes in 11-14 year old boys delivered a tool box and heard back from a boy who received it whose father was a carpenter.

Shoebox collections are the week of November 17-24 at the following locations (call the collection site for the times of collection):

• Hughesville Baptist Church, 301-643-6282.
• First Baptist Church of Waldorf, 301-848-2217
• First Baptist Church of La Plata, 240-416-5321
• Indian Head Baptist Church, 301-743-3707
• Lexington Park Baptist Church, 301-862-2552
• Dunkirk Baptist Church, 301-755-6241
• Southern Calvert Baptist Church in Lusby, 410-609-6422
• Kendall Baptist Church in Temple Hills, 310-613-0519
• The Upper Room Fellowship of Clinton, 301-752-0094

The collection sites also will accept items not placed in shoeboxes. Those also will be sent to the distribution center for packing.

Shoebox gifts are collected year round at Samaritan’s Purse’s headquarters in Boone, NC.

Samaritan’s Purse was started in in 1970 after founder Bob Pierce visited the suffering children of the Korean island of Kojedo. Pierce died in 1978 of leukemia and he was succeeded by Franklin Graham. According to their website: “Through over 30 years of earthquakes, hurricanes, wars and famine, Franklin has led the ministry in following the Biblical example of the Good Samaritan all across the globe.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer in Southern Maryland can call the Hartsfields at 410-586-1172.

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