COVID Won’t Halt Operation Christmas Child

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD
When: National collection week Nov. 16-23
Where: Local drop-off locations are First Baptist Church, 1133 N. Third St., and Wylie United Methodist Church. 3430 Antilley Road. 
First Baptist drop-off hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16-Friday, Nov. 20; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21; 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22; and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23.
Wylie UMC drop-off hours: 12-4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16; 12-5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18; 12-5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19; 1-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20; 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21; 1:30-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22; and 12-3:30 Monday, Nov. 23. 
Contact: Area coordinator is Naomi Wood. For more information or to request materials, contact Wood at 325-660-5633 or abileneareaocc@gmail.com
More information about Operation Christmas Child: www.samaritanspurse.org

By LORETTA FULTON

Even Christmas events will be affected this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the upcoming Operation Christmas Child drive.

National collection week is Nov. 16-23. The international drive will go on, but will see a few differences this year, said Naomi Wood, area coordinator. One casualty of the COVID pandemic  is a partnership with Chick-fil-A restaurants. In the past, Chick-fil-A handed out boxes and gave customers a free chicken sandwich for each box that was returned, filled with gifts. 

One thing that hasn’t changed this year is the enthusiasm level. Wood and other Operation Christmas Child coordinators rely on volunteers, and whether they would be willing to help out this year was an unknown. But as it turns out, coordinators didn’t have anything to worry about.

“I have been pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm level in our area,” Wood said. 

An emphasis this year will be packing shoeboxes online. This function has been available in the past, Wood said, but is being emphasized this year due to COVID. New this year is a goal page for groups that want to set a goal for a number of boxes to be packed. 

As in the past, physical boxes also can be packed this year. They can be standard cardboard shoeboxes, plastic shoeboxes, or ones provided by Operation Christmas Child, which is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. A donor has provided free plastic shoeboxes, which have been distributed locally and nationally. 

“I was able to give out a bunch of those, which I was excited about,” Wood said.

Last year the Abilene Area collected 5,427 shoeboxes. This year the Abilene Area has combined with what previously was the Brownwood Area. Goal this year for the combined areas is 11,000 shoeboxes.

If a box is packed online, suggestions are given for what to include. For lists of acceptable and unacceptable gifts for physical shoeboxes go to  www.samaritanspurse.org and click on Operation Christmas Child under “What We Do.” 

Local drop-off locations are First Baptist Church, 1133 N. Third St., and Wylie United Methodist Church. 3430 Antilley Road. Individuals and groups who want to pack shoeboxes and drop them off shouldn’t worry about COVID protections. Volunteers at the drop-off station will be wearing protective masks and gloves. And, there will be plenty of people at each site to help, Wood said.

“All of my drop-offs are on board,” she said. 

The Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes do more than provide gifts for children who might not otherwise receive any. After receiving shoebox gifts, many children participate in the Samaritan’s Purse  discipleship program, “The Greatest Journey.” The 12-lesson course taught at a local church teaches Bible stories and scripture memorization. According to the Samaritan’s Purse website, more than 23.3 million children have enrolled in the program since 2009. A $6 donation is requested for each shoebox to cover the cost of the program.

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