COLUMBIA — Volunteers around Columbia will have the opportunity to collaborate with the charitable Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse this November to send gifts, necessities and encouragement to needy children around the world.
The annual project, Operation Christmas Child, asks participants to pack toys, school supplies, toiletries, hard candy and photographs into shoeboxes. These donations are then sent to children in more than 100 countries, including Haiti, Panama and the Philippines.
Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, took over the operation through Samaritan’s Purse in 1993. The effort began a few years prior with individual donations to Romanian orphans, but Graham expanded it into what it is today.
Founded on evangelical Christian values, Operation Christmas Child strives to meet the spiritual and physical needs of underprivileged children on an international level, according to the organization's website. Although the majority of the donations comes from within the U.S., donations also arrive from Australia and several European countries.
Along with gifts and school supplies, the organization encloses a gospel pamphlet translated into the child’s native tongue, when the receiving countries permit it.
Because of its Christian foundations, donations primarily come from churches, but contributions from schools, families and philanthropists are also common.
Tim and Paula Flint, local collection coordinators for the Midwest region, encourage Columbia residents to bring their packed shoeboxes and a $7 donation to their local collection center during the week of Nov. 14.
“A lot of these children are orphans and have never received a birthday present or Christmas present,” Tim Flint said. “They’re happy to get any kind of present.”
Participants should pack their shoebox with specific items for an intended gender and age group and exclude used or damaged items, toy weapons, toys with war motifs, food, chocolate, breakable items, liquids, lotions, medications, aerosols and vitamins.
Local collection centers include the Signature Foods Warehouse in Columbia and the First Baptist Church in Boonville.