Operation Christmas Child begins today

Mike Zurkan, Garry Dunham, and Larry Johnson get ready to close the first trailer loaded with 350 cartons full of shoeboxes.

“The most important thing about the shoeboxes is the children who will be receiving them,” Patti Seth said of boxes being packed and collected for Operation Christmas Child.

The program is a division of Samaritan’s Purse, which sends Christmas gifts to needy children overseas.

“The numbers at any given church are irrelevant compared to the blessings on the kids when they open their shoebox. The adults of this world have to do a better job of spreading God’s love so that children all over the world have a safer, more peaceful world to grow up in,” Seth said.

Seth has been participating in Operation Christmas Child for nine years, and her church — the Pleasant Community Church in Pleasant Township — has been doing it since the late 1990’s.

Shoeboxes are packed by individuals and contain gifts of hygiene products, school supplies, clothes, and of course toys. Seth said that last year, she included return address labels in the card she enclosed, so that if they wanted, the children who received her boxes could write to her and her grandchildren.

On Oct. 2 of this year, a letter from Gilgil Kenya arrived in her mailbox. The letter was from a caregiver in an orphanage in Gigil. The woman wrote that her box had gone to a little girl named Michelle. “I imagined the joy on her face as she opened her box,” said Seth.

“Then the tears started, as I read that Michelle had lost her mother at a young age, and that she was one of 30 children living at the orphanage with the HIV virus.”

Seth said that some changes to the program have come down this year, so those who routinely participate in Operation Christmas Child may not be aware. This year, she said, inclusion of toothpaste and candy in the boxes is prohibited due to issues with expiration dates as the boxes move through customs. Also, she said, the cost of shipping has gone from $7 to $9. “This is the first increase in almost ten years,” said Seth. “The cost to send a shoebox overseas individually to a child in need would be more than 20 to 30 times that amount,” she said. Anyone wanting to participate can log onto the program’s website (www.samartianspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child).

Pleasant Community Church will again be a collection center for shoeboxes, she said. The church receives shoeboxes from Warren and the surrounding area. “We also serve as the center for shoeboxes collected in Bradford, Corry, Coudersport, Emporium, and St. Mary’s,” said Seth. Last year, the church sent two trailers loaded with 8,235 shoe box gifts. The trailers transported the cartons, containing 350 shoeboxes each, to the Operation Christmas Child processing center in the Baltimore/D.C. area, said Seth. Between 2009 and 2016, according to Seth, 46,842 children “have been blessed by the people of Warren and its surrounding communities, and our other five centers who bring their shoeboxes to Warren. The goal for this year’s trailers is 8,750,” said Seth.

This year, Seth said, the collection center also benefited from the provision of wooden yo-yos, cars, whistles, trucks, and several Jonah and the Whale toys from the volunteer-run Toy Shoppe on the Warren State Hospital grounds. “There will be many smiles on the faces of children because of the Toy Shoppe,” said Seth.

For more information and instructions on packing a box, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website. Shoeboxes can be dropped off at the Pleasant Community Church, 673 Pleasant Drive, from Monday, Nov. 13, to Friday, Nov. 17, from 3 to 7 p.m. daily, and Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18 and 19, from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The final collection day for the Pleasant Community Church will be Monday, Nov. 20. before 10 a.m.