By SHELLY WILKISON
Families in Liberty Hill have the opportunity to change lives across the globe this holiday season by packing shoeboxes for children.
Fellowship Church is serving as a collection center this year for the Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child.
During National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21, Liberty Hill residents may donate shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene items, notes of encouragement and small toys, such as a doll or deflated soccer ball for Operation Christmas Child to deliver to children in need around the world.
Christina Wright, who is coordinating the efforts at Fellowship Church, said the response from church members and others in the community has grown significantly over the years resulting in the church being asked to serve as a collection center this month.
Four to six churches from as far away as San Saba and as close as Liberty Hill will bring cartons of packed shoeboxes to Fellowship the week before Thanksgiving, which will then be loaded onto a tractor-trailer truck and delivered to the Samaritan’s Purse processing center in Dallas.
This year, Liberty Hill and surrounding communities hope to contribute more than 5,100 shoebox gifts toward the 2016 global goal of reaching 12 million children, according to Samaritan’s Purse.
“The shoebox gifts donated by Liberty Hill volunteers at these drop-off locations will shine a light of hope to children living in poverty overseas,” said Regional Director Matt McCelland.
“Anyone is welcome to pack a shoebox and help a child facing difficult circumstances to feel loved and not forgotten.”
Wright said the majority of boxes packed by Liberty Hill donors go to children in South American countries.
“These are items we take for granted, things we could pick up (at a store) whenever we wanted to,” Wright said.
Small toys, hygiene items, school supplies, socks, caps, sunglasses are examples of items placed in the boxes. Liquids, candy and other food items are not permitted.
Wright said the charity provides pre-printed shoeboxes for donors, or items can be packed in plastic boxes about the size of a shoebox that can be used for other purposes by the recipient. In some places, it could serve as a way to carry water, she said.
She said at the processing center in Dallas the shoeboxes are checked by volunteers before being shipped internationally.
For Wright, wife of Fellowship Pastor Michael Wright, it isn’t just about the items that fill the box. It’s the message of God’s love that’s delivered with every box.
Along with the shoebox, recipients receive bible story books written in their native language.
“It’s amazing that a small box can have so much impact,” she said.
Wright said her family has been contributing to Operation Christmas Child for many years and it has become a tradition during the holidays to shop for items to include in the boxes.
When the Wrights’ oldest daughter went on a mission trip overseas in recent years, she sent a photo of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox to her mother.
“She said ‘all these years we’ve known that Samaritan’s Purse says these boxes go tot he end of the earth, but to see it is the coolest thing’,” Wright said.
She said her daughter saw the box in the home of a family of five, who said they had received it four years earlier.
“Everything in the box was in tact after four years. The crayons were barely used, everything was so taken care of. They were so thankful for it, and they had heard God’s message because of the box,” Wright said.
Fellowship Church volunteers will receive donations and pack shoeboxes beginning next week. Children in the church will have a packing party on Nov. 9 packing boxes with items donated to the project.
“They are so thoughtful, and they choose each item thinking about the child who will receive it,” she said.
Packed shoeboxes may be brought to the church anytime during business hours, but collection week is Nov. 14-21. Receiving hours that week are Monday-Friday 8-10 a.m., Saturday 9 a.m – 2 p.m., Sunday 2-5 p.m. then Monday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The truck will arrive Nov. 21 to pick up all of the donations.
The church has pre-printed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in stock and those are free to anyone wishing to participate.
Wright said although Samaritan’s Purse makes the big push for donations during the holiday season, the boxes are delivered across the world all year long.
She said some donors include a message of encouragement inside the shoebox along with photos and an address hoping to communicate with the recipient.
Wright noted that the charity asks contributors to also enclose $7 per box, a donation that is almost equivalent to the cost of shipping the box.
By going online to www.samaritanspurse.org, one can pay the fee and track their box to see where and when it is delivered.