In October 1990, Dave and Jill Cooke were watching a broadcast on Romanian orphanages and the devastating impact of a recent war. The program moved them to help children living in poverty. Together, they filled a convoy of nine trucks with medical supplies, food, clothing and Christmas gifts for children and headed into Romania. This was the beginning of the world’s largest children’s Christmas program: Operation Christmas Child.
In 1993, Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world, took over Operation Christmas Child (OCC), which had been created to impact children all over the world in the giving spirit of Christmas. The concept is simple: put together a shoebox of small, thoughtful gifts for a child in need. Over the past 17 years, more than 77 million shoebox gifts have been delivered to children in over 130 countries thanks to a core group of inspired and dedicated volunteers that continues to grow every year. The impact of the gift of this modest box resonates far, and for many of these children the memory of receiving a Christmas gift box lasts a lifetime.
Last December, Operation Christmas Child traveled to the Georgian town of Xeiti, a community burned and bombed in a territorial dispute. While visiting, they had the privilege of getting to know the people in the community. Nana, a resident of the town, was 7 months pregnant during the attack. OCC delivered gifts to the community, and Nana and her husband, Bograte’s, 2-month-old daughter Lizzie was among the 350 children who received gifts. “Thank you for the gift,” Bograte said. “We are trying to make our lives as normal as possible, but it is difficult. We have only the hope of God to get us through this.”
Operation Christmas Child is one of Samaritan’s Purse’s most far-reaching and well-known outreach programs with more than 8 million shoe box gifts collected last year. This Christmas season, OCC is planning to give a record number of shoebox gifts to the children of Haiti.
Getting involved is easy. To send a gift to a boy or girl, simply fill a shoebox (or shoebox sized plastic container with a lid) with a variety of gifts that will delight a child. Suggestions for gifts include small toys such as cars, balls, stuffed animals and games; school supplies such as pens, crayons, and coloring books; and hygiene items. To sign up and determine what gifts are needed, please visit www.samaritanspurse.org.
For a hands-on experience, volunteer in the Operation Christmas Child Processing Center. This holiday season, Samaritan’s Purse anticipates needing 65,000 volunteers to serve in the seven processing centers across the U.S. The need is greatest during National Collection Week, Nov. 15-22, 2010.
If you, your family, group, or church is excited to participate in this opportunity, you are encouraged to call (800) 442-9120 to request a reservation. Please have multiple options of dates and times in mind when you call.
Operation Christmas Child donation drop-off locations:
Briarcliff Baptist Church
3039 Briarcliff Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Church of the Apostles
3585 Northside Parkway NW
Atlanta, GA 30327
Mountain Park First Baptist Church
5485 Five Forks Trickum Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
955 Johnson Ferry Road
Marietta, GA 30068
Smyrna Presbyterian Church
2920 Highway 212 SW
Conyers, GA 30094