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Operation Christmas Child: Shoeboxes spread joy around the world

The annual Operation Christmas Child is set to take place much as it has since it began in 1990.

Originally a Wales-based program that merged with Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization, shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies are sent to children around the world as a way of “sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

According to the Operation Christmas Child website, gift boxes are sent outside the United States to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine and disease as well as to children living on Native American reservations in the United States.

Although any average-size cardboard or plastic shoe box would do, pre-printed shoe boxes were available for a girl or a boy in one of three age categories (2-4, 5-9 or 10-14) to be filled with about a dozen items such as a soccer ball with pump, stuffed animal and a number of fun toys, hygiene items and school supplies. According to Samaritan’s Purse, shoebox gifts are an excellent, tangible way to demonstrate God’s love to needy children around the world and for many of the children, the gift-filled box is the first gift they have ever received.

Families preparing shoe boxes are encouraged to include a personal note and photo and to pray for the child who will receive their gift.

This year, few extra precautions have been added during collection and processing to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

Manteo Baptist Church will be one of more than 4,000 locations offering curbside drop-off services.

“When people come by to drop off boxes, they will be guided to an outside area for drop off,” said Manteo Baptist Church administrative assistant Lois Givans. “Everyone should remain in their car while a masked volunteer will come to the driver’s window and take their information.”

With that in mind, consider the following changes to Operation Christmas Child Drop Off Center protocols due to COVID-19:

1. No packing parties at most churches. Manteo Baptist Church will not be having a packing party. Any boxes filled will be by individuals. Women On Mission will be helping to collect those boxes from church families.

2. New protocols for contactless/curbside drop-offs.

a. All volunteers will wear masks when approaching donors.
b. Drop-offs will be collected under the portico for weather protection and ease of managing boxes.
c. A volunteer will speak with drivers and get the required drop off information.
d. Volunteers with gloves and masks will remove boxes from donor vehicles and almost immediately put them in transport cartons.

3. Personal safety equipment (gloves, masks and sanitizer) will be included in drop off kits.

4. Shortened drop off hours. The Manteo Baptist Church schedule includes:

Wednesday Nov 18: 10 a.m.-noon
Thursday, Nov 19: 10 a.m.-noon
Friday, Nov 20: 5-7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov 21: 10 a.m.-noon
Sunday, Nov 22: 1-4 p.m.
Monday, Nov 23: Shoebox delivery to the central drop-off center in Elizabeth City.

“We hope this will ensure the safest possible drop off procedure while still fulfilling the needs of the children around the world,” Givans added.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, shoebox gifts will be shipped out to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries around the world by the middle of December from processing centers in Boone, Charlotte, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis or Orange County, Calif.

After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enroll in discipleship programs with local ministry partners. Depending on the distance they must travel, some shoeboxes are delivered by Christmas while others may not clear customs in receiving countries until spring. In addition, when gifts must be transported to rural areas along poor road conditions, distributions could typically occur from late December through spring each year.

A Samaritan’s Purse press release credits Operation Christmas Child with collecting more than 8.9 million shoeboxes in 2019.

For more information about the Manteo Baptist Church Operation Christmas Child program, call the church office between 9-3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 252-473-2840.

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