Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
There are Christmasy things going on in small back room of First Baptist Church in Woodward and the volunteer there, Jenny Hopkins looks ... well ... happy.
The same joyful grins are plastered on workers faces at Saint Paul Congregational Church of Shattuck, said that church's Operation Christmas Child coordinator, Kathy Land.
"It's hard not to get excited when we get some shoe boxes," Land said.
But we’re not talking just any old shoe box.
Indeed, these boxes are full of small but meaningful gifts for children who live in some of the most desperate corners of the globe, said Gari Laminack, veteran relay center coordinator for First Baptist Church.
"We would like to set our goal at 10 percent more this year than last," Laminack said. "Last year, we sent 1,453 boxes."
On Monday, Hopkins had already taken delivery of 418 filled shoe boxes from Crown Heights Baptist Church.
"And we also had a company of 12 (employees), Vesco, come by and drop off 46 boxes, Hopkins said.
Last year, St. Paul Congregational Church gathered 427 filled shoe boxes, Land said.
Both locations will be accepting shoe boxes full of gifts for boys and girls between now and Nov. 25, Laminack said.
These volunteers and donors and thousands more like them throughout the United States and the world are the backbone of Operation Christmas Child run by Samaritan's Purse International Relief.
Samaritan's Purse is an international aide organization founded by philanthropist Bob Pierce in 1970. The organization, now shepherded by Franklin Graham, offers year round relief to the world's most hurting and needy people, according to the organization's publications.
In 2012, Samaritan's Purse sent $9,039,060 in shoe boxes to numerous locations about the globe.
The concept is simple - get a shoe box, put some basic fun items and items a child might need inside the shoe box and with the help of local volunteers help get the boxes to Denver, Colo. to be sorted and sent all over the globe.
For information about what to include in your box and what to leave out, go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
But that's just the beginning of the work involved in this endeavor, Laminack said.
A box may only find its final destination, such as a village in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, after a volunteer has walked with the boxes up to the village to give them directly to the children there. Or how about the first year Operation Christmas Child was in operation, 1993, when it collected 28,000 boxes and delivered them to child refugees of the war there.
This year boxes from Oklahoma full of crayons, stuffed toys, soap, wash clothes and anything else an impoverished child might need or enjoy will be headed to Mexico and Guyana, Laminack said.
After taking the boxes Oklahoma City, they will be taken to Denver to be sorted and then sent to the country where they will be distributed, Laminack said.
Volunteers will go with the boxes and begin the sometimes difficult process of getting the boxes where they are intended to go, Laminack said.
"No one from our area has ever been lucky enough yet to be a part of the distribution teams," she said. "But we have had some go to Denver to help sort."
First Baptist Church has been participating in the operation for 20 years, Laminack said.
This is St. Paul Congregational Church's 11th year, Land said.
For those who wish to create a shoe box and send one, check the drop off schedule for both churches below:
Collection Centers Open through Nov. 25
First Baptist Church
202 E Hanks Trail
Woodward, OK 73801
Tues. - Nov. 19: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wed. - Nov. 20: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thurs. - Nov. 21: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri. - Nov. 22: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sat. - Nov. 23: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Sun. - Nov. 24: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m
Mon. - Nov. 25: 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Saint Paul Congregational Church
917 S Olive Street
Shattuck, OK 73858
Tues. - Nov. 19: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Wed. - Nov. 20: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m
Thurs. - Nov. 21: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri. - Nov. 22: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m
Sat. - Nov. 23: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sun. - Nov. 24: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Mon. - Nov. 25: 7 a.m. - 8 a.m.