Drop-off sites to open for Operation Christmas Child


As the world continues to wrestle with a global pandemic, children need joy and hope now more than ever.

More than 4,000 locations will be offering a curbside drop-off option for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child project this month.

Volunteers at the two drop-off locations in Jackson County are preparing to collect shoebox gifts during National Collection Week from Nov. 15 to 22.

Shoeboxes will be collected at Medora Wesleyan Church, 191 S. David St., Medora, and Cornerstone Community Church, 1088 Sarasota Drive, Seymour.

Operation Christmas Child seeks to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world and together with the local churches worldwide share the good news of Jesus Christ.

The organization has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts filled with school supplies, hygiene items and toys to children worldwide since 1993. During that time, Operation Christmas Child has given out more than 188 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions, this is a project that individuals, families and groups can still participate in this year.

“In the midst of the pandemic, children around the world need to know that God loves them and there is hope,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “A simple shoebox gift opens the door to share about the true hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

Lisa Hoog, southeast Indiana area coordinator, first started packing shoeboxes in the 1990s with her family.

“I wanted to help spread the Gospel message to children around the world,” Hoog said. “My family and I have been packing boxes ever since.”

She said the goal this year for southeast Indiana is 12,500 boxes. Last year, 11,751 boxes were collected in this region, including 1,422 boxes coming from Jackson County.

Hoog encourages people to participate in packing shoeboxes because each box is a gift of love for a child.

“Each box is a Gospel opportunity to share the good news of Jesus to every child,” she said. “For some of these children, this is the first gift they will ever receive. Every box is a blessing and truly cherished.”

Hoog said it is really fun to shop for a boy or a girl to find special items for his or her box.

“You are a blessing to that child and even to their family, and when each child receives a box, they have the opportunity to hear how much God loves them,” she said. “They are also invited back for a 12-week discipleship program where they are taught more about Jesus and how to tell others about him. By packing a box, you impact a child’s life forever.”

Currently, Medora Wesleyan Church and Cornerstone Community Church are the only two Jackson County drop-off points.

“We do have certain criteria that each drop-off location has to meet, but we are always looking for new drop-offs,” Hoog said.

Rachel Amos of Seymour is on the church relations team and is a drop-off team leader for the shoebox project at Cornerstone.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Cornerstone collected 897 shoeboxes and Medora collected 525 shoeboxes.

This year, Cornerstone has a goal of 1,250 shoeboxes, Amos said.

“Cornerstone’s total was down slightly from the previous year, and we didn’t have as many groups gathering last year to pack boxes as we have in the past, probably relating to the pandemic,” she said. “This year, we have local churches, organizations and individuals packing in their homes as well as in their churches as a group. “

Amos said she feels the shoebox gifts are important because it teaches us to serve others and spread God’s love.

”We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus with this project,” she said. “These shoeboxes are such a blessing to children in need around the world. Children need to know they are loved and not forgotten.”

Individuals, families, groups, churches and organizations are packing all of these items — hygiene items, school supplies, toys and clothing — into boxes with love and joy in their heart anticipating how much excitement this will bring to one child, Amos said.

“For some of these children who receive the shoeboxes, it could be the only gift they ever receive, but what an amazing gift it is,” she said. “The shoebox represents evangelism, as each child has the opportunity to learn about Jesus when they receive their shoebox. The children take the message of the Gospel back to their families, creating disciples of Christ. The gift of the shoebox is multiplying the message of the Gospel around the world to some of the most hard-to-reach areas.”

Cornerstone will continue to offer curbside drop-off. Volunteers will meet donors at their vehicles to unload boxes outside. Donors also are welcome to bring their boxes inside the church.

Pam Breeden, drop-off team leader at Medora Wesleyan, said in 2020, the shoebox collection was only 10 shy from the previous year, which was remarkable with the pandemic going strong.

“With our church in particular, COVID helped to increase our numbers because we were able to work in small groups in the downtime with everything around us being shut down,” Breeden said. “God was definitely working throughout this time.”

She said the shoebox ministry is so great because it literally reaches the ends of the Earth and it’s a way to reach people who can support the mission even though they can’t travel abroad.

“When Medora Wesleyan Church first started this ministry, we only collected 343 shoeboxes, so God has been growing this mission,” Breeden said. “I would love to see us surpass 600 shoeboxes this year.”

She feels this goal is reachable because each year, they are growing.

“This year, we will be offering what Samaritan’s Purse is calling curbside plus, where our patrons will be able to decide for themselves if they want to utilize the curbside drop-off, where our volunteers will bring the paperwork to them and unload their vehicle or they can bring them inside themselves,” Breeden said.

She said there will be gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and volunteer information available for everyone.

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