Members of Long Branch Baptist Church in Autryville have a long-standing tradition that takes hours away from home, all in an effort to help make a difference in the lives of many children.
For the last 11 years, the church has been going to the processing center in Charlotte, Boone and Atlanta to work on packing shoe boxes as part of Operation Christmas Child. The coordinator of the trip, Caroline Hair, says it’s a trip the members look forward to every year and has already made reservations for this year.
“This type of volunteer work is more rewarding than I ever expected,” Hair said. “I will never forget the first time I walked into a processing center and saw the magnitude of boxes to be distributed to children all over the world. This gift is all some of these children will receive all year. To think we are the last person to touch these shoe boxes until they arrive in the hands of the child.”
With a goal of 100 shoe boxes this year, Hair said the church has exceeded that goal.
“I am proud to say that eight of those boxes were complied with items from my current co-workers and a former co-worker that moved across the country to Washington State with the military and one from a Facebook friend from Connecticut,” Hair explained.
While at the processing center, workers inspect the boxes to remove any money and all items that aren’t approved, such as liquids and war-like items. Once the boxes have been inspected, someone tapes the box to secure it for transportation and then the box is placed in a large carton. Scanners then scan the box so they are able to be tracked during their journey to their new home.
Long Branch members have been tracking their boxes since 2011 and Hair says they have made it to South and West Africa, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India and South America.
There is even a job for those who want to help, but may not be able to stand for the three-four hours time frame the church is volunteering.
“The experience is one hard to understand unless you are there to see and feel the excitement that arises from a warehouse full of people from all of the state working for one cause,” Hair shared. “To bring the gospel of Jesus through a simple shoe box. It is interesting to read over the notes and see the photos that people place in their box for the child to see and hope to hear from.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.