Photo courtesy of Samaritan Purse
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse that collects shoe box gifts filled with all kinds of items like school supplies, hygiene items and toys and delivers them to children in need around the world. The closest drop-off location to Malibu is Gateway Church in Agoura Hills. Shoeboxes can be dropped-off from Monday, Nov. 13, through Monday, Nov. 20.
“We do it to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way,” Claire Huerta said, media relations associate at Samaritan’s Purse. “For many of these children this is the first gift they’ve ever received in their lives.”
To find their nearest drop off location, Huerta said volunteers should go to the Operation Christmas child drop-off locator.
“The shoeboxes reach children in over 100 countries,” Huerta said. “There are drop off locations all over the U.S.”
Operation Christmas Child has distributed shoeboxes since 1993 and delivered a total of 146 million shoeboxes all over the world, Huerta said. This year Samaritan Purse’s goal is to reach 12 million children with shoebox gifts.
“This is just a really great opportunity to share God’s love with kids all around the world and to make a positive impact in their lives,” Huerta said. “Anybody can participate whether you’re a little kid, college student, parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.”
Junior Monica Pereda said she participated in Operation Christmas Child throughout her four years of high-school.
“I think it’s just good to see how much a little thing you do can make such a difference,” Pereda said. “Because each kid is getting is getting [just] one Christmas present and it’s the box that you donated for them.”
Pereda said the program positively impacted her high school experience.
“I went to a private high school where [students] never really had to struggle or worry,” Pereda said. “So it was kind of like a wake-up call to a lot of people.”
Pereda said she is happy the drop-off period is starting soon.
“They’re literally getting a toothbrush and a coloring book and a yo-yo and a note from you and they’re so happy and content and excited,” Pereda said. “Which makes me so sad because we all complain or get mad when we don’t get the Christmas present that we wanted and these kids are getting a coloring book and they are thrilled.”
Huerta said volunteers can use any cardboard or plastic shoebox and choose the age and gender their gift is tailored for. Gifts can be made to boys and girls 2 to 14 years old.
“You can use Christmas paper, stickers or whatever you want to decorate the outside of the box,” Sheila (who did not want to give out her last name) said, Operation Christmas Child representative. “And once you decide the gender and age you can go shopping.”
Sheila said the type of items in every box vary depending on the gender and age the volunteer chooses to donate to.
“You can let your imagination run,” Sheila said. “Little girls love ribbons and bows.”
Huerta encouraged volunteers to donate school supplies.
“School supplies are a great thing to include because a lot of these children don’t have them,” Huerta said. “You could [also] include a stuffed animal and hygiene items.”
“Just no candy or toothpaste,” Huerta said. “But if you would like to include a toothbrush, a bar of soap, pencils, markers, a notebook or crayons, you can.”
Sheila said volunteers are encouraged to donate a small shipping fee.
“We ask for an optional donation of $9 to help us get the box overseas,” Sheila said.
Operation Christmas Child also has boxes that volunteers can build and purchase online.
“Volunteers can select different items and Operation Christmas Child will pack them in a shoebox and send them out,” Huerta said. “That is a really great option if you don’t have time to go and drop-off your shoebox.”
Huerta said she would encourage students of all ages to get involved.
“It’s something that anybody can get involved in this holiday season and it’s just a really great opportunity to make a tangible impact in the lives of kids who maybe have never received a Christmas gift in their lives,” Huerta said.
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