Thousands of children in poverty- and disaster-stricken areas of the world will be smiling this Christmas because of gifts from Rockdale County residents.
More than 1,400 gift-filled shoeboxes were collected from the Smyrna Presbyterian for Operation Christmas Child on Monday.
This organization, under the parent Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, collects gift-filled shoeboxes and distributes these internationally to millions of needy children. Last year, 8 million shoeboxes were given to children in 130 countries.
Smyrna Presbyterian Church serves as a drop-off relay center for the entire county and has done so for many years. This means local organizations, churches, and individuals pack shoeboxes and then drop them off at Smyrna Presbyterian Church. Volunteers assist each day in the counting and packing of these shoeboxes into cartons. On the last day, the cartons are loaded and then sent to the district drop-off site in McDonough to be sent to the distribution warehouse in Atlanta and then shipped throughout the world.
From its inception in 1993, this ministry, run by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and founder of Samaritan’s Purse, is considered to be the world’s largest Christmas project. This year, in addition to the previous international deliveries, OCC will also deliver a quarter million boxes to some of the youngest earthquake victims in Haiti.
The shoeboxes are usually filled with toiletries, toys, school supplies and even sandals and clothes. Some people even include a Christmas card or letter and a picture of themselves as a way to personalize their gifts.
Many donors regard this activity as an integral part of their Christmas giving, according to local organizer Theresa Ray. A fellowship has developed among regular donors and volunteers.
This year donors may even track their gift-filled shoeboxes as these travel to the multitudes of destinations via bus, boat, airplane and even elephant. For their final destinations, the shoeboxes are then hand-delivered.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/ or for information on the local effort, call 770-922-6679.