By Loretta Fulton
Just days before Thanksgiving, Santa’s elves were already busy in Abilene, getting Operation Christmas Child boxes packed with goodies and ready to ship.
First Baptist Church and Wylie United Methodist Church served as dropoff locations for churches and organizations in the Abilene area. On Dec. 15 volunteers will tow trailers loaded with packed boxes to a sorting warehouse in Grapevine.
There, thousands of boxes will be opened, inspected, resealed, and packed into shipping crates for distribution to children in 100 countries. Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency.
Joy Daffern, a member of First Baptist Church, has been a volunteer for several years. She helped with the collection process at First Baptist and will join about a half-dozen other volunteers from the church for the trip to Grapevine.
“We have so much fun,” she said.
At the warehouse in Grapevine, all the boxes will be opened and inspected to make sure no prohibited items are shipped. The boxes are filled will all sorts of fun stuff, from toys to school supplies, to clothing, hygiene items, and cards offering Christmas wishes.
People get innovative, Daffern said, with their packing, including stuffing a deflated soccer ball and air pump into the small space. Seeing all those donations and thinking about the people who did the shopping and packing brought a smile to Daffern’s face.
“You just see the love that people have put into them,” she said.
Each year, Sunday School classes, organizations, families and individuals participate in Operation Christmas Child. This year, children receiving the boxes also will get a booklet titled, “The Greatest Journey.” The children will be invited to go to a local church and participate in a 12-week study based on the booklet.
Samaritan’s Purse website, http://www.samaritanspurse.org, tells the story of the beginnings of Operation Christmas Child: “The program was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 146 million children in more than 100 countries.”