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Shoebox season approaches
November 11, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Brian Ring (left) and his dog Kiera joined Chris and Carissa Smith and their children Payslee and Champ to get boxes ready for Operation Christmas Child.

During the week of Nov. 14 – 21, area churches are invited to fill shoeboxes with small gifts and school supplies for children as Operation Christmas Child gets underway.

Chris Smith with First Baptist Church in Scottsbluff said they’ve been a part of the outreach for the past 16 years. “One of the ladies’ circle groups packed about a dozen boxes and sent them off to the collection center in Cheyenne,” Smith said. “Next year we decided to do it as a church and packed about 150 boxes.”

The Samaritan’s Purse organization, which started Operation Christmas Child in 1993, heard about the work in Scottsbluff and asked if they’d like to be a collection center for the Nebraska Panhandle. After some thought and prayer, the church said yes. The program has been growing every year since.

Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest outreach ministry for children. Shoeboxes as distributed by the worldwide ministry Samaritan’s Purse, headed by Franklin Graham.

“Last year we collected 4,683 shoeboxes from churches around the Panhandle,” Smith said. “Once in a while we get some from South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado as well.”

The collected shoeboxes full of gifts are for different ages of children, both boys and girls. They go to different countries all over the world along with gospel material in their own language. The shoeboxes are delivered by missionaries and pastors in those countries.

The process is simple. Use an empty cardboard or plastic shoebox then decide whether the gift is for a boy or girl in age categories 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. Fill the box with gifts that a child of that age would like. It could include hygiene items, school supplies or even clothes that can fit in a shoebox. Tape a note to the box top identifying the category. Place a rubber band around the box and drop off at the nearest collection point.

Smith said about 114 shoeboxes have already been collected from the church’s Trunk ‘n Treat” event on Halloween. Another 200 or so were collected at the Kids Explore event at the Mitchell Event Center.

Collection week for this season’s Operation Christmas Child is Nov. 14 – 21. The First Baptist Church Annex, 3009 Avenue I in Scottsbluff, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Relay collection points have been set up in Gordon, Valentine, Chadron, Alliance, Harrison and Kimball.
“We’re expecting to fill 4,700 boxes this year,” Smith said. “We set conservative goals, but God multiplies rather than adds.”

For more information on Operation Christmas Child, call 308-631-9674 or visit samaritanspurse.org.
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