Area residents are invited to gather shoe boxes and small toys and treats for this year's Operation Christmas Child effort. Boxes will be accepted at the First Baptist Church in Cassville until 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19.
"We collected 760 shoe boxes last year," said Jackie Hendrix, on-site coordinator. "That was up by over 150 from the year before. This year, we have raised our goal to 800."
This year, Operation Christmas Child expects to collect and deliver shoe boxes to more than 9 million impoverished children in over 130 countries. Organizers hope to surpass the milestone of providing 100 million children with gifts since the project began in 1993.
"People in the community have learned what we're doing, and despite the economy, have stepped in to support our mission," said Hendrix.
Operation Christmas Child gifts can include any of the following items:
* Toys: small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, a small Etch A Sketch, a Slinky or other toys that light up or make noise, with extra batteries.
* School supplies: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, stamps and ink pads sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators and coloring and picture books.
* Hygiene items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, mild bar soap in a plastic bag, combs and washclothes.
* Other: hard candy and lollipops, mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches and flashlights with extra batteries. All candy should be double bagged.
* A personal note: Individuals are invited to include a note to the child and a photo of their family in a separate envelope. Some children send letters back to families that include their name and address.
Used or damaged items, toy guns, knives, military figures, chocolate, food, out-of-date candy, liquids, lotions, medications, vitamins, breakable items and aerosel cans should not be included in Operation Christmas Child packages.
Gift items should be placed in an empty standard size shoe box or small plastic container. Boxes can be wrapped, but lids must be wrapped separately. Wrapping is not required.
Donors are asked to determine whether their gift should be given to a boy or a girl. The donor is also asked to select one of the following age categories for the gift: 2 to 4 years of age; 5 to 9 years of age; or 10 to 14 years of age.
Donors should enclose at least $7 for each shoe box to help cover shipping and other project costs. The donation can be made online at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ using the "Follow Your Box Donation" option.
Checks can also be submitted with shoe boxes. Donations should be placed in an envelope on top of the gift items inside the box. If more than one box is submitted, a donor should include one check with the combined shipping donation.
"You hear so many testimonies from the children," continued Hendrix. "One little girl had prayed for shoes and when she got her shoe box, there were tennis shoes in it. She said then she knew God loved her because he sent her the shoes."
Operation Christmas Child gift boxes will be collected at First Baptist Church, located at 602 West St. in Cassville, from noon to 5 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 18. Boxes will also be accepted from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child, call Hendrix at 847-2965 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.