For the holiday season, Cameron Dunn is looking forward to happy children opening shoe boxes filled with gifts.
Beginning Nov. 13, Grove Park Baptist Church in Clinton will serve as the drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child. The church is located at 609 Northeast Blvd., Clinton.
“The biggest benefit of something like this is sharing God’s love,” said Dunn, who serves as the education and youth minister for the church. “You may not be physically able to go to these countries, but you can still send a message of love and most importantly a message of God’s love to children across the world.”
Through the project, donors can help needy children around the world by stuffing empty shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and hygiene items. The youths also receive a gospel message of faith and encouragement. For 2017, the goal for the Clinton and Fayetteville area is to deliver more than 27,000 boxes to children living in poverty.
With 5,000 locations, the overall goal for the organization is reach 12 million children. Dunn is ready to lead the effort. He applauded church member Kelli Weeks, who was instrumental in the process.
“At the end of the day, I think the beauty of this project is seeing God’s love,” Dunn said. “It’s sending the sense of brotherly and sisterly love.”
Operation Christmas Child is operated by Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. Since the early 90s, the program has collected and delivered more than 146 million shoe boxes filled with gifts to children around the world.
Sheri Collins, an area coordinator and volunteer, has been involved with the program for 11 years. The joy of children keeps her connected.
“Anytime I see the pictures from the distributions or the videos, they are so excited to get a shoe box filled with toys and hygiene items,” Collins said. “They are so excited, while most kids in the United States would say ‘What is this?’ Those kids are so underprivileged, they just don’t have what we have. To see the joy that they get from it makes me want to continue to do it.”
She shared a story about listening to speech by a women effected by radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. She was adopted, moved to the United States and is currently working on her second master’s degree.
“She talked about receiving a box as a child and how it encouraged her to know that it was people out there who cared,” Collins said. “When I see these things, it shows that it makes an impact of children’s lives more than we know.”
For more information about participating in Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 for shoe boxes through the “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label with the final destination. An online shopping option is available at www.samaritanspurse.org/buildonline. This allows owners to select gifts for a specific age and gender. A photo and personal note of encouragement may be added.