Woodward, Okla. —
This holiday season Northwest Oklahoma will be working to brighten the lives of needy children around the world through the Operation Christmas Child project.
"This is an international children's relief project, the largest in the world," said Dara Brensing, regional manager for Operation Christmas Child. "The goal is to show love to children in poverty-stricken, war-torn areas with the hopes of connecting them to a local church in their area."
This is done by collecting presents, treats, and supplies for the children, which are packaged in shoeboxes or similarly sized containers, and then shipped across the globe to be distributed in over 100 countries from Australia to Brazil to China to Zimbabwe.
"These are great gifts," Brensing said. "They're schools supplies, small toys, and personal hygiene products. The kids love them, you'd be surprised how happy they get over these gifts. In many countries children aren't allowed to attend school without supplies, so things you or I might take for granted like a pencil could mean the world to them."
An ambitious goal has been set to collect 1,600 of these shoeboxes in Woodward.
Woodward's First Baptist Church is the local Operation Christmas Child collection point and the shoebox gifts can be dropped off at the church any day next week.
The gifts may be dropped off between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 12 through Nov. 16, between 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Nov 19.
But Woodward isn't the only area community that participates in Operation Christmas Child.
"The St. Paul's Congregational Church (in Shattuck) has participated in the project for around 10 years now," said Kathy Land, Operation Christmas Child's relay coordinator for Shattuck.
Additional drop off points in Northwest Oklahoma include the First Baptist Church in Alva, and the First Baptist Church in Longdale. Collection times for these locations vary and can be looked up online at the website for Samaritan's Purse (samaritanspurse.org), which is the international relief organization that sponsors the Christmas gift program.
Land said she would encourage anyone who enjoys spreading a little Christmas joy as well as sharing the Christian message to participate in Operation Christmas Child.
"I think people should contribute to the cause because its an easy way to have a ministry in children's lives and spread the gospel," she said.
Because along with the shoebox gifts, the children are also presented with a booklet titled "The Greatest Gift of All," which shares the story of Christ.
With the help of the churches Northwest Oklahoma, as well as many other communities around the nation, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone this year of collecting and distributing shoeboxes to over 100 million children since 1993.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child or how to contribute to the cause, people can contact Dara Brensing at (913) 831-4466 or visit samaritanspurse.org.
The website also includes a list of what items are recommended for inclusion in the shoeboxes as well as those that are prohibited. For example, chocolate is not allowed because it might melt during the delivery process. However, hard candies such as lollipops are acceptable.