Officials with Samaritan’s Purse, the primary organization that oversees Operation Christmas Child, helped kick off the shoe box drive Tuesday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Tri-Cities Operation Christmas Child coordinator Matthew Robinson said the gift goes further than the goal.
“These boxes have made differences in children’s lives where hope is sometimes impossible to find given the conditions,” he said, mapping out potential drop-offs for gift parcels constructed locally including South and East Africa, Mongolia, Haiti and 95 other countries.
In 2011, 8.6 million shoe boxes were packed by children and adults in 11 countries, including the United States, at one of six national processing stations.
One of those stations is located in nearby Boone, N.C., the home of Samaritan’s Purse founder Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.
Those who want to fill a box can choose small gifts for a boy or a girl and then drop them off at either Bristol Motor Speedway the week of Nov. 12 or at other designated locations that will be posted on the Operation Christmas Child Web site: www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.
“We recommend people place things in there that children can use every day and play with. That can include toys, school supplies, personal care items like soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes,” said Robinson.
“A lot of people find that the most meaningful thing is adding things with a personal touch like pictures of their family or a hand-written note that encourages the child that will receive the box. If it can fit in the box, it will make a great gift. If they choose to send things like candy, they need to be hard candies or nothing that will melt or perish in the shipping process.”
The organization has also included a feature called “Follow Your Box,” where a donation made with a credit or debit card will provide the consumer with a special bar code they will attach to their shoe box. That allows the family to track their box online and learn more about the country where the box is headed.
Robinson is always encouraged by the thousands who continue to support the ministry every year but is more moved by the effort taken by children to help those less fortunate.
“People have a desire to help other people in need. People derive so much pleasure in giving things — things we take for granted — to those who really need them. And it teaches our children valuable lessons that stick with them,” he said.