COLUMBIA — Signature Foods Warehouse is the Columbia drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child, which is accepting shoe boxes filled with gifts through Monday.
The gifts will be sent to children aged 2 to 14 in approximately 100 countries.
Operation Christmas Child is an annual project of Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization. Samaritan's Purse has delivered 86 million gifts to children around the world since 1993, said Jennifer Platzer, media relations associate for Operation Christmas Child.
Tim Flint and his wife, Paula, are the collection center coordinators for mid-Missouri.
Local churches, businesses, schools and Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops organize to collect gifts and pack shoe boxes.
"Last year there were about 1,060 or 1,070 boxes from Columbia," he said. "This year we hope to get more. It's a really good way for people to share a present with children around the world. Some of them have never received presents."
People can send gifts virtually by going online and picking out the items. Included with all gifts are gospel messages in 50 different languages, covering 73 countries.
"Some countries will not allow us to include gospel messages," Tim Flint said. "Sometimes the indigenous people who help distribute the gifts share the message with them in their native language. That way they receive the message even if we can't provide them with the literature."
The Rev. Dennis Peterson of Millersburg Baptist Church not only supports the program at his church, but also volunteers at the drop-off location.
"It's a joyful atmosphere," he said of the warehouse. "A lot of people come out from work and are tired but get re-energized because you know it's a blessing for the children."
Complete instructions and gift suggestions for Operation Christmas Child can be found at online. Boxes can be tracked to the country of destination; a $7 donation is requested to cover shipping costs.
Drop-off hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at Signature Foods Warehouse, 1780 Lindberg Drive off I-70.