MORGANTOWN — As we start the season of giving, there are plenty of ways to help those most in need, but for almost 30 years one organization has taken that giving spirit worldwide.
Each year, Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, collects millions of shoeboxes filled with small gifts for children of all ages and distributes them to children in need around the world through a project called Operation Christmas Child.
“Children are the innocent victims of all kinds of devastation,” said Paula Keplinger, coordinator of church relations for the program in the Morgantown area. “Children who have been orphaned or traumatized by war, children who live in places of abject poverty who might never have received a gift before in their lives. It’s a thing that opens hearts and offers real help.”
Anyone can pack a shoebox for the project — individuals, families, churches and groups can all participate. Keplinger said empty shoeboxes can be filled with a variety of items like school supplies, coloring books and crayons, clothing, hygiene items like toothbrushes and combs, and toys such as dolls or soccer balls.
There are several items that are not allowed to be packed in the boxes. According to the Samaritan’s Purse website, these items include candy, toothpaste, used or damaged items, war‑related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures, seeds, chocolate or food, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers, and aerosol cans.
Shoebox collection will be held next week, Nov. 15-22, during what the project calls National Collection Week. Collection sites for Monongalia, Marion, and Preston counties include Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Morgantown, Mill Chapel Church in Reedsville, Central United Methodist Church in Fairmont, and First Baptist Church in Mannington.
Each collection site will offer contact-free drop-off to try to accommodate and make it safe for everyone. “There will be masked volunteers there that will take the boxes directly out of your car if you like, or you can deliver them yourselves,” Keplinger said.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, how to pack a shoebox, or collection site information, visit samaritanspurse.org and click on the Operation Christmas Child link under the What We Do tab.
The project collected over nine million shoeboxes last year and aims to collect over 10 million in 2021. Any donations received after Nov. 22 will be used for next year’s project.
As Keplinger said, “There is nothing more fun than packing gifts for a child.”