Samaritan’s Purse kicks off season of giving

By BRIANA HARRIS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – Samaritan’s Purse will host a kickoff event for its Operation Christmas Child program from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, at First Baptist Church of Pelham.

The event marks the start of the organization’s collection season for Operation Christmas Child, which collects and distributes gift-filled shoeboxes to children around the world.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 135 million shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories. For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received.

Kathy Aiken, OCC area coordinator of the Birmingham South Area Team, said the kickoff event, at 2867 Pelham Parkway, will feature missionary Deanna Newman as the guest speaker. Newman, who is on a sabbatical, will share her experiences from her mission trip to Haiti.

Aiken said the event, which is open to the public, will include refreshments, games and prizes. Attendees will learn what steps are taken to deliver shoeboxes to children, how to pack a quality shoebox, how to host a shoebox packing party, how to build a shoebox on the Samaritan’s Purse website and how to pray more specifically for OCC.

“A quality shoebox should include one item that will capture the child’s heart – like a doll, stuffed animal, matchbox cars, toy trucks, musical instruments or a soccer ball,” Aiken said.

Soccer balls should be deflated and include a small manual pump.

“I always include socks because some schools require students to wear socks,” Aiken said.

Aiken said hygiene products, school supplies and flip flops are also popular items. Shoeboxes should not include liquids, breakables or war-related items such as toy guns, knives and military figures.

“These shoeboxes are so much more than just giving a gift to a kid,” Aiken said. “I asked a Ugandan pastor what more we could do to help and he said, ‘Please send more shoeboxes.’ They are key to missionary workers being able to get into places they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed into.”

Operation Christmas Child’s national shoebox collection week will be Nov. 14-21. Drop-off locations throughout Shelby County will be listed on the Samaritan’s Purse website, Samaritanspurse.org.