By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Children look forward to receiving gifts on Christmas morning, but not every child gets a chance to open brightly wrapped presents that day. In fact, some children in third-world countries have never received a gift in their life. That’s where “Operation Christmas Child” steps in.
Shoeboxes filled with gifts will be delivered to children in need in more than 100 countries worldwide as part of the operation. The shoeboxes will be delivered by whatever means possible – train, plane, boat, bike, camel, even dog sled.
“So many of them don’t get anything, ever, and this is a chance for us to get something to one of them,” said Jim Rawls of Mildred Missionary Baptist Church. Rawls brought in 24 shoeboxes to the Tarboro collection site – First Baptist Church – Monday evening. That brought the total number of shoeboxes collected at that site thus far up to 426 – 191 from First Baptist and 235 from other churches.
First Baptist member Angie Gregg said the church has been participating in Operation Christmas Child for a number of years.
“To give such a simple gift with the opportunity to share the Gospel message is huge,” she said.
Stacey Nicholas, a member of the Operation Christmas Child church relations team, said each shoebox contains a tract to teach the child receiving it about Christianity.
Nicholas said the shoeboxes should be packed according to age group – 2 to 4, 5 to 9, or 10 to 14, and whether the gifts are for a boy or a girl. Only non-perishable items should be packed. A $7 shipping fee should be included with each shoebox.
Even receiving items such as pens and pencils can make a difference in the lives of the children receiving the shoeboxes.
“There are some of these countries where the children can’t go to school until they get school supplies. They can’t afford school supplies,” Nicholas said.
First Baptist member Connie Crowe said packing the shoeboxes is a great family project and learning experience for children.
“They’re able to do something for other people. It helps them understand serving others,” Crowe said. “It helps them put in perspective the kinds of things they’re asking for for Christmas.”
“They could not conceive of the fact that these children have never in their life had a gift,” she said.
This year, Tarboro residents have a goal of contributing 900 gifts to the global collection of 9.8 million shoeboxes. Last year, Tarboro churches and community members contributed a total of 1,101 shoeboxes, Gregg said.
The shoeboxes collected at First Baptist will be sent to a processing facility in Charlotte, and from there they will be shipped overseas and delivered to children. Last year, Nicholas said the Carolinas contributed a little more than 700,000 shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child, with a goal of 800,000 this year.
Drop-off hours for shoeboxes are 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday. First Baptist is at 605 N. Main St.