VINTON–In their first year as a Relay station for the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program, Lynn Haven Baptist Church in Vinton took in over 1251 gift boxes which will be distributed to children around the world.
The project is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, which was founded by Reverend Franklin Graham in 1970. The non-denominational Christian organization helps to meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. The Shoebox project began in 1993. Last year the organization delivered over 10 million gift boxes to children in 118 countries.
Volunteers at Lynn Haven collected the shoeboxes from their congregation and other churches from November 16 through November 23. Lynn Haven coordinators Nancy Bowser and Shirley Hall said they had about 18 volunteers involved with the project at their church. They packed 81 cartons with shoeboxes of various sizes.
The boxes were then taken to Salem where Virginia State troopers packed them in a tractor trailer for delivery to the Operation Christmas Child headquarters in North Carolina.
More than 500,000 volunteers worldwide, with more than 100,000 of those in the United States, are involved in collecting, shipping, and distribution. Many boxes go to children in orphanages.
Participants fill shoeboxes with small gifts of toys, school supplies, hygiene items, art supplies, hats, sunglasses, flipflops, and a variety of other items. They are encouraged to enclose a note to the child and “to say a prayer for the recipient.” Boys and girls from ages 2 to 14 receive the gift boxes along with a Bible booklet entitled “The Greatest Journey” in their own language.
Local churches who dropped off their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes at Lynn Haven included Vinton Baptist Church, East End Baptist, Gospel Light Baptist, Cooper’s Cove Baptist, Christ Fellowship, and the Mineral Springs Christian School. Some boxes came from individuals. The volunteers at Lynn Haven said that one woman brought 60 gift shoeboxes that she had packed herself.
A common response from the children who receive the gifts is that “even though these people didn’t know me or my story, they took their time to pack a shoebox especially for me.”
Lynn Haven will continue as a Relay station for the program next year.