Looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit a little early this year?
Then find an empty shoebox and get ready to bring holiday cheer to a child in need.
Jackson County is home to two of 11 drop-off sites in southeastern Indiana for Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse that sends millions of Christmas gifts to children around the world.
Operation Christmas Child is looking for families, churches and civic groups in Jackson County to turn shoeboxes into gifts of hope for children around the world.
Coming through a global pandemic, children need joy and hope now more than ever.
More than 4,500 locations will be open to collect shoebox gifts for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child project this month, offering a curbside option.
The goal this year for the southeast Indiana area is 14,500 boxes. Last year, 13,782 boxes were collected in this region, including more than 2,500 boxes coming from Jackson County.
Seymour collected 2,030 shoeboxes, and Medora collected 545 shoeboxes.
Volunteers at the two drop-off locations in Jackson County are preparing to collect shoebox gifts this month during National Collection Week from Nov. 14 to 21.
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.
Samaritan’s Purse is calling on churches and families to pack more shoebox gifts than ever before for Operation Christmas Child to ensure millions of children experience the good news and great joy of the holiday.
Samaritan’s Purse is committed to its mission of reaching millions of children across the globe with hope.
“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.”
The Samaritan’s Purse project has been collecting and delivering shoebox gifts filled with school supplies, hygiene items and fun toys to children worldwide since 1993. This is a mission project that everyone can be a part of.
Richard Rieckers, logistics coordinator for southeast Indiana, said Medora Wesleyan Church and Cornerstone Community Church are the only two drop-off points in Jackson County.
“In southeast Indiana, 11 drop-off sites are located within nine counties: Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland,” Rieckers said. “As logistics coordinator, I get in touch with each of the drop-off leaders at each site in case they need any information, supplies, shoeboxes, cartons or anything like that and then I take it to them.”
There are lists of gift ideas for boys and girls by age group on the Samaritan’s Purse website, but there are several items they always like to see included in each shoebox, he said. Those items are a bowl or cup, a toothbrush, a washcloth and a bar of soap.
“In some of the refugee camps where we send shoeboxes, they’ll have lines of people go through for food, and a lot of kids don’t have some kind of a container, so they hold their hands out,” Rieckers said. “If the food is hot, they’ll drop it and have to eat it off the ground, so a bowl or cup would be really helpful.”
Pam Breeden, drop-off coordinator for Medora Wesleyan, said their church works on shoeboxes throughout the year.
“We might focus on hiking items one month and school items another month,” Breeden said. “We’re a small church and always try to have ours done before collection week so we can focus on everybody else’s.”
She said they’ve put together 60 shoeboxes this year, compared to 50 last year.
“We would like to reach 600 shoeboxes at our drop-off this year, and that’s kind of high because last year, we got 236,” she said. “But before COVID, we were up to 533 shoeboxes.”
Breeden said she likes how the shoebox project unifies the church and the community.
“It’s its own little ministry, and it’s like supporting a missionary. We’re actually hands-on as far as helping to send the gospel to all ends of the Earth,” she said.
Rachel Amos, drop-off coordinator at Cornerstone, said their goal this year as a drop-off location is 2,200.
“We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus with this project, and these shoeboxes are such a blessing to children in need around the world,” Amos said. “Children need to know they are loved and not forgotten.”
Amos said 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,” Amos said. “I encourage others to participate as another way to serve Jesus and spread the good news.”
Participants can find the nearest drop-off location and hours of operation as they make plans to drop off their shoebox gifts. The online lookup tool is searchable by city or ZIP code at samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations.
Drop-off sites for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
National Collection Week Nov. 14 to 21
Medora Wesleyan Church, 191 S. David St., Medora
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 14
2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 15
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 16
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17
1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 18
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 19
1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 20
9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 21
Cornerstone Community Church, 1088 Sarasota Drive, Seymour
5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 14
9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 15
4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 16
4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17
4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 18
9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 19
1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 20
9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 21
Lisa Hoog, southeast Indiana area coordinator, 812-744-7028
Pam Breeden, drop-off coordinator in Medora, 812-966-2664 or 812-620-4020
Rachel Amos, drop-off coordinator in Seymour, 812-216-3912