Back to school shopping bargains provide an opportunity for giving.
Pleasant Community Church in Warren serves as a collection center for Operation Christmas Child. The program is a mission of Samaritan's Purse, an international relief agency headed by Franklin Graham.
Patti Seth, collection center coordinator at the church, said the mission involves collecting shoeboxes or similar-sized plastic boxes filled with items for children in need. Four relay centers in Corry, Bradford, Emporium and Ridgway send their boxes to the Warren church where they are loaded onto a tractor trailer and shipped to Boone, N.C. and then distributed worldwide.
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Children from Uganda react to receiving their boxes.
In 1999, when Pleasant Community Church was still Bethlehem Covenant before its merger with First Baptist, the church first got involved with the program. Operation Christmas Child dates back to 1993 and this year will ship its 100 millionth shoe box.
"I honestly believe if you're going to change the world you have to do it one child at a time," Seth said. "It doesn't take much to change a child's life or the future."
School supplies can be particularly helpful, Seth said, as some children can't afford even a pencil and so they stay home. Other suggested items include soap, small toys, sunglasses and t-shirts.
Boxes should be filled with items intended for a boy or girl in age groups of 2 to 4, 5 to 9 and 10 to 14. Last year, Seth said the program started including basic tools and fishing supplies such as reels, hooks and lures for the oldest group since those who reach that age in many countries are considered adults.
Although national collection week runs from Nov. 12 to 18, the program's headquarters accepts boxes year round. They can be sent to Operation Christmas Child Samaritan's Purse P.O. Box 3000, 801 Bamboo Rd., Boone, NC 28607.
Boxes can also be brought to Pleasant Community Church at 673 Pleasant Dr. in Warren during collection week. Workers will also be loading the trailer the morning of the 19th and could accept boxes at that time if needed.
Including the relay centers, Smith said the church last year shipped a total of 4,164 boxes and the goal for this year is 4,500. Any church, individual or group is welcome to participate and can get more information at www.samaratinspurse.org or by calling the church at 723-7730 or Seth at 723-2285.