“I think you realize with this project that you’re able to reach so many people from home, and it’s something the whole family can do. The kids enjoy getting to go and purchase items for shoe boxes,” said Cook, who is overseeing one of the county’s relay centers — Cedar Creek Baptist Church. “... My family, we love Operation Christmas Child because it’s a way that we give a gift to children who may never have had a gift in their life before.
“But ultimately, it’s the No. 1 way that we can spread the gospel from our home throughout the world. [These shoe boxes are delivered by] elephants, planes, boats, canoes and dog sleds. It goes places that most people can’t access on their own and it’s just a beautiful way for us to share the hope that we have.”
With National Collection Week set for Nov. 12 to 19, Operation Christmas Child is seeking to acquire and disperse more than 9 million shoe box gifts to children in more than 100 countries who are living in dire conditions ranging from poverty to war-torn areas. This year, more than 500,000 volunteers are assisting worldwide to help the Samaritan’s Purse ministry reach the milestone of assisting more than 100 million children since 1993.
Starting Monday, Operation Christmas Child will feature two drop-off sites in Bartow County for area residents to deliver their gift-filled shoe boxes.
At Cedar Creek Baptist Church, 54 Folsom Road in Adairsville, donations will be collected Monday through Friday, Nov. 16, from 3 to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 17, 9 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 18, 2 to 4 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 19, 8:30 to 10 a.m.
Cartersville First Baptist, 241 Douthit Ferry Road, will serve as a collection site Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon; and Sunday, Nov. 18, from 1 to 3 p.m. On Monday, Nov. 19, items will be accepted from 9 to 11 a.m.
After selecting the gender and age category — 2 to 4, 5 to 9 or 10 to 14 — of the child, contributors need to fill a shoe box or small plastic container with hygiene items, school supplies, small toys and, if desired, a personal note and a photograph of themselves. A $7 donation is required to cover shipping costs. Further details, such as a list of suggested items, can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org. Participants also can pay their shipping cost online and track the destination of their shoe box.
“Some of the things in the box actually do meet physical needs,” said Durham, relay center coordinator for the Cartersville area. “We put in there small clothing items, toothbrushes, toothpaste. So things like that.
“Kids in all these countries [might] never ever get any other gifts of any kind. This may be the only thing that they ever get. But along with it more importantly they get to hear the gospel message and learn about Jesus. And they actually have literature that is published in their language that they get also when they receive their box.”
For Durham, learning how Operation Christmas Child touches the lives of its recipients is a heartwarming learning experience.
“I love to hear stories. I love to see the pictures,” Durham said. “We actually got a chance to hear very briefly from a girl a couple of years ago who was a shoe box recipient and she just talked about how something so simple as a little hair clips that she always wanted [can make a difference]. She opened her box and that was what she found in the bottom of her box and [she talked about] how much that meant. Something that’s so simple to us was so important to her.
“And then through a mission trip I did, I got to meet a girl who actually as an orphan had received one of these boxes. She has since been adopted and she lives in the United States but she still has her box. She has kept it and just talks about what it meant to her. She really realized somebody somewhere else in the world who didn’t even know her cared enough and loved enough to pack one.”
For more information about the local collection sites, visit www.samaritanspurse.org or call Cartersville First Baptist Church at 770-382-4994 or Cedar Creek Baptist Church at 770-877-9900.