Shoebox full of gifts helps children around the world

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information North Side Baptist Church 910 N. Main St Weatherford, TX 76086 Operating hours Tues., - Nov. 19: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wed., - Nov. 20: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thurs., - Nov. 21: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Fri., - Nov. 22: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 23: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 24: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Mon., Nov. 25: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

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If you haven’t heard of Operation Christmas Child (OCC) then what you should know is that since the mid ’90s, Weatherford’s own North Side Baptist Church has been a collection site for gifts - that can fit in a shoe box - to be shipped to needy children around the world.

The program called Samaritan’s Purse was created by Franklin Graham, eldest son of Billy Graham, who began the OCC outreach. Since 1990, more than 100 million boys and girls in more than 130 countries receive simple shoe box gifts from OCC. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the “life-changing good news of Jesus Christ.”

“It’s something my family has always done,” said Ragan Carr, coordinator for the local project at North Side Baptist. “It’s just the most rewarding thing ever. To think that our children get toys every time we go to the store...this may be the only gift these children get all year long.”

Known as the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Carr said the goal is to collect more than 10,000 packages this year, which is almost what was collected last year at 9,453.

She said anyone can drop off a gift-filled shoe box to be sent to a child overseas but cautions that items containing liquid or that can melt cannot be sent for obvious reasons. But if you do forget, don’t worry.

“Once the packages leave here, they are delivered to a distribution center whey all of the gifts will be unpacked,” Carr said. “There, if a item needs to be removed it will be and given to a local charity that might be in need of it.”

She asked to please not send “war-type” toys.

“For a lot of children, that’s their daily life,” she said.

She said usually washcloths, a soft toy, hats, toothbrushes and perhaps a little hard candy will do the job.

“It grows every year,” Carr added. “Last year, my family’s gift went to Mexico. A few years before that, my son’s went to Africa. We included a little picture and a letter. Months later, we received a letter from the family that had received it.”

She said there are 467 collections centers in the country, along with seven processing hubs, and that nine million children are expected to receive gifts this year alone.

Carr said what’s also interesting is how some of the packages get delivered.

“They are delivered in traditional ways, of course, like by bus or train, but also by helicopter, boat, mule, dog sled and even elephant,” she said. “That makes it especially fun when the children are involved.”

Pastor Van Houser has watched this grow over the years and said he’s impressed with the impact of the effort.

"I don’t know of any other vehicle that gets people in the Christmas spirit more than filling these boxes,” Houser said. “The joy on the faces of children and adults as they carefully consider what they will put in each box is priceless. To watch the children pray over their box before they send it is heartwarming. Nothing beats giving to someone who has a need at Christmas."

Carr said any local family or individual can participate and can choose to purchase a gift for a little boy or a girl - ages 2- 14. Many schools and other organizations or groups have packing parties and fill the boxes together.

She said North Side Baptist’s goal is 2,000 packages.

There are collection sites located in nearby Aledo, Eastland, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Springtown, Stephenville and Fort Worth. For more information regarding these locations call 800-567-8580.

Twitter: @Lancewinter

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