Sampson Middle School students put their focus outside the local community once again this year, bringing Christmas cheer to children from other countries who, otherwise, might have gone lacking at the holiday. This year is the 19th year that the students and faculty of the school have worked on Operation Christmas Child, a project that has seen lots of boxes collected to delight children across the globe.
Like so many area churches and organizations, Operation Christmas Child has been a mainstay outreach at Sampson Middle for nearly two decades. It is something, school organizers say, that everyone at SMS wants to be a part of year after year.
Typically the boxes are wrapped with festive paper, giving the recipient a bright holiday package, which are described as a great benefit to communities that may be impoverished. The shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child are collected in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Austria,Finland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Australia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Lesa Locklear, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Sampson Middle School, said the program has been one that has had a special impact on some of the students.
“One of the students explained that when they were young, and living in Honduras, they remembered receiving a shoe box gift,” said Locklear in a phone interview. The student recalled that she and her family were very excited to receive the gifts.
“The student said that that shoe box was something special,” said Locklear. For many children that shoe box may be all they receive for Christmas, especially in areas that are war torn or impoverished. The shoe box gift meant a lot to that student, and it likely filled a void, the teacher stressed.
Operation Christmas Child, which is a nationwide outreach project, has sent over 100 million shoe boxes to 100 different countries since 1993. Each box is designed for either a boy or a girl, and age groups vary from toddler to young teens. Labels are put on the boxes so they can be given to the correct recipients. Each box is packed with items for the children, either toys or candy or practical items.
Sampson Middle School collected a grand total of 334 shoe boxes this year, staff members noted. Small dolls, toy trucks, harmonicas, and yo-yos are the types of items that are enclosed for the entertainment and enjoyment of the recipients. Personal hygiene items that might be included are washcloths, tooth brushes with paste, and perhaps a bar of soap, since in some of the delivery areas these items might be luxury items that the rest of us would take for granted.
War related items, such as toy soldiers, and play knives, and not allowed as the boxes may end up in war torn parts of the world and the children don’t need those type of reminders of the horrors; however, items like school supplies, pencils and paper, are other items that are both practical and fun for the kids to receive. The Operation Christmas Child organizers encourage donors to enclose a letter and pictures of their families because sometimes the person will write back to the donors.
This year at Sampson Middle School, Caroline Strickland’s sixth-grade homeroom class collected the most shoe box gifts in the competition.
And while Christmas celebrations are, for the most part, over for 2013, boxes are often collected throughout the year for distribution during next year’s holiday. For more information on Operation Christmas Child and ways to contribute see their website at http://www.samaritanspurse.org
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org