MORGANTOWN — As the holiday season is approaching, Samaritan’s Purse is raising awareness for its Operation Christmas Child program.
According to Ronda Dalton, area coordinator for Monongalia, Marion and Preston counties, people are able to work on boxes all year, but the official dates to have enough time to ship the boxes to different countries are in mid-November.
Dalton said people who do not have time to go out and shop for the shoe box can instead build a box on the Samaritan’s Purse website. It also allows people to track their box and see which country it ends up in. The program provides to children in certain countries and regions of the world who have never received a gift, according to Dalton.
“To me, it’s a reward because the reason we do it is a project that’s going to take children in need that may have never received a gift,” Dalton said. “It’s bringing that joy to that child because I’ve met some of the children that’s received boxes — it gave them hope and faith for a better life. I tell my team we’re touching one child for eternity.”
National Collection Week is from Nov. 12-19, and Dalton said she recommends people bring in their boxes before the date, due to drop-off locations being open for only a couple of hours.
The drop-off locations for shoe boxes in the Morgantown area are CMA Church, Chestnut Ridge Church and Cheat Lake. This year is the 25th anniversary of Operation Christmas Child, and Dalton said they have a goal for their anniversary.
Dalton said in 2018, they want to reach over 11 million children in over 100 countries. As for the three counties Dalton covers, that goal is to obtain and send off 14,000 shoe boxes.
Those making shoe boxes can choose between a boy or girl, pick the age group: Ages 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. Dalton said it is up to the creativity of the person purchasing items for the child, but they
“When it comes to items, we always suggest a ‘wow’ item, which could be a doll for a girl, a soccer ball with a pump, or an animal,” Dalton said. “The other things that we ask to fill the shoe box with is fun toys, hygiene items — and the other big thing we try to stress on is school supplies.”
Another suggested item to go in the box is a photo, and it can mean a lot to the child, according to Dalton.
“We always encourage everybody, if they can, to take a picture of the person or family sending the box, and include a letter with your address because some of these kids are in orphanages or war-torn countries and when they get [their shoe box], they might not have their family,” Dalton said. “They almost take that on as that’s their personal family.”
Items that are not allowed in the shoe box are: Candy, toothpaste, war-related toys, breakables, food or liquids.
For the shipping of the boxes, a donation of $9 is asked to be placed in the box, according to Dalton. Dalton said there is no limit on how many items goes into the box.
“We always say pray and pack,” Dalton said. “We want you to think of that child that you’re packing for and just fill the box with those items, and usually it’s a pretty full box.”
For more information or all-year volunteering opportunities, go to samaritanspurse.org.