Each Christmas season, Samaritan’s Purse chooses to celebrate by reinforcing the adage that it is better to give than to receive. The Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that is dedicated to providing relief to11-13-13-christmas-child.gif impoverished and struggling people internationally. The very name of the organization, which is based off a parable in the Bible that expresses Jesus’ teaching to help unconditionally, expresses the sentiment on which this organization was founded. One of the many ways that Samaritan’s Purse practices this principle of giving is through Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child unites communities across the nation through stuffing shoeboxes, or shoebox-like containers, with gifts to send as Christmas presents to impoverished children all across the world. These small gifts are far more than just simple toys when they are given to children. They are a symbol of the love and compassion that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches. While these gifts may seem small when they are packed, the impact and the joy that they create in communities, and in a single child’s life are immeasurable.

Operation Christmas Child first began in 1993. Since then, more than 100 million children in more than 130 countries have received these shoebox gifts. This year, the aim is to increase this number even more. In the Fayetteville region alone, the goal is to collect 30,000 shoeboxes in support of the project. Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect 9.8 million boxes from across the nation. Often church groups or volunteer groups create the shoeboxes, but any and all donations are welcome. The official drop off dates for this year are Nov. 18 - 25. Drop off sites are located all over Fayetteville including Faymont Baptist Church, Cedar Falls Baptist, Hope Mills Presbyterian, Stedman Baptist, First Baptist Church of Spring Lake and Fairview Baptist. There are also collection points in Raeford, Southern Pines, Lumberton and Clinton.

Donations should be made in a shoebox or similarly sized box with a removable lid. The boxes can be wrapped, but the lids should be wrapped separately. Each box should also be sent with $7 in cash or check to cover the expenses of shipping. There are also suggestions on how to pack a box, and what to leave out on the Samaritan’s Purse website.

Generally toys, school supplies, hygiene items, accessories (such as T-shirts, hair clips, or sunglasses), and a personal note are great things to pack. Food, liquids, medications, war-related items and breakable items should be left out of the boxes.

If the drop off dates are missed, don’t worry. Samaritans Purse collects donations year round. Boxes can be sent to the headquarters in Boone, N.C. This address can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org where monetary donations can also be made year round. Now, boxes can be tracked online at this same website, so people can see where their gifts finally arrive.

Operation Christmas Child is not all that the Samaritan’s Purse does however. They have many fundraisers and projects that benefit global victims of war, natural disaster, famine and poverty. Volunteers and donations from all over the nation make the good work that this organization does possible. For more information about Operation Christmas Child, drop off sites, volunteer opportunities or any of the work that Samaritan’s Purse does, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

Photo: Each year, operation Christmas Child delivers shoeboxes to millions of children around the world.

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