Operating for Christmas smiles
December 13 2002 by Dennis Parker , BR Staff Writer

Operating for Christmas smiles | Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

Friday, Dec. 13, 2002

Operating for Christmas smiles

By Dennis Parker BR Staff Writer

As many as 1,500 Baptist churches in North Carolina participated in Operation Christmas Child again this year. Baptists from every corner of the state filled and wrapped shoebox gifts, worked at local drop-off centers and at the Charlotte and Boone regional processing centers.

The shoe box gifts contributed by N.C. Baptists will be part of the more than six million gifts that will be collected this Christmas for suffering children in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Although exact figures are not known, the number of N.C. Baptist churches and the level of participation have grown since the program began in 1993.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

North Carolina plays a key role in Operation Christmas Child. Not only is Samaritan's Purse headquartered in Boone, but Charlotte and Boone are sites for two of the seven regional processing centers where shoebox gifts are collected, processed and packaged for worldwide distribution. About 25,000 volunteers were expected to process more than 1.3 million shoeboxes at the Charlotte center this year.

Albemarle First Baptist Church collected 422 shoebox gifts, exceeding its goal by 22 boxes. The WMU sponsored project, with Patty Edwards serving as church coordinator, sent eight people on Nov. 30 to work at the Charlotte processing center. Marilyn Easley, church secretary, said it was "quite an experience." They worked with people from seven other states: New York, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina. Edwards said their job was to work on an assembly line checking the boxes and adding items, which had been donated by businesses, to partially filled boxes.

Eighteen students and adults from East Hickory Baptist Church delivered 83 shoebox gifts to the Charlotte processing center on Nov. 27. They spent the day helping prepare the boxes. This was the third year church members have gone to Charlotte to help. Pat Riley, church secretary and wife of pastor Mike Riley, said the Awana Club sponsored the church's participation in Operation Christmas Child.

Members of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville prepared 171 shoebox gifts, exceeding the goal of 150. Aillene Horne, church secretary, said a number of members participated at the local drop-off center.

Gene Roberson, deacon chair at Spray Baptist Church in Eden, said 80 gifts were donated, almost double what the members prepared in 2001. Fifteen members, 11 youth and four adults went to Charlotte on Nov. 30 where they worked for five hours preparing gift boxes for 5-7 year-old girls. This was the first time Spray members had helped at the processing center. Roberson said he was "very impressed with the people and organization" in Charlotte. He said 100,000 boxes were prepared that Saturday for delivery to the Sudan and Uganda.

The Samaritan's Purse Web site reported that since 1993 Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 18.5 million shoe boxes valued at more than $360 million, and hand-delivered them to needy children in 120 countries.

In 2001, Samaritan Purse said that 5.3 million shoebox gifts were collected from children, families and religious and civic organizations in America and nine other countries, surpassing the 4.1 million collected in 2000. More than 2.8 million shoebox gifts were collected in the United States.

The Web site said the "purpose of Operation Christmas Child is to share the joy of Christmas and the love of Jesus Christ with suffering children around the world. ... These gifts help our local ministry partners build relationships with families and community leaders, opening doors that can lead to more freedom to share the good news of Jesus Christ."

The first 80,000 shoebox gifts were airlifted from New York's JFK International Airport to Uganda on Dec. 10. Samaritan's Purse staff, volunteers and national partners hand delivered the gifts to Uganda children, many of whom have never received a gift, on Dec. 12-14.

The gifts were flown to Africa aboard the Antonov 225, the world's largest airplane.

Once the boxes are delivered to the appropriate country, Samaritan's Purse representatives and national partners travel by truck, bus, train, helicopter, boat, foot, dog sled, and mule to deliver the gifts, along with a colorful children's book of the Christmas story.

The official collection week for the shoeboxes was Nov. 18-25. Shoe box gifts will be accepted until Jan. 31 and should be shipped or mailed to: Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, N.C. 28607. Information about how to pack a shoebox can be obtained at www.samaritanspurse.org.

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12/13/2002 12:00:00 AM by Dennis Parker , BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments
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