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Operation Christmas Child wraps, winging gifts across the world


As Christmas draws ever closer, people are shopping for friends, families and strangers as another season of Operation Christmas Child closes, set to send shoeboxes of sundries across the world.

The program, operated under the international auspices of Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization, has been running since 1993, aiming to deliver boxes of toys and essentials to children of impoverished nations around the globe — since its inception, the group has reported more than 113 million shoeboxes sent to families in more than 150 nations.

Locally, the number was 164 this year, remaining about on par with previous years, said Reverend Bob Carter of First Presbyterian Church, who coordinated the charitable effort between Petersburg churches, collecting the shoeboxes with the assistance of the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department, which loans the Search and Rescue vehicle each year to collect the boxes.

“The idea is to collect shoeboxes of toys and different types of things that kids might need,” he said. “We’ll then deliver them to (Alaska Marine Lines) and they ship them, for free, to a distribution center in Juneau. Last year our boxes went mostly to the Philippines and central Asia.”

Though the first leg of the journey is free of charge, Samaritan’s Purse does ask for a $7 donation to defray shipping costs, he added.

Along its journey, the gift boxes are inspected to ensure they’re safe and don’t violate any laws en route — perishable items wouldn’t survive the trip and seemingly innocuous items, such as toy squirt guns, have proven deadly for children in conflict-torn areas, he said. “Some countries have tariffs — you don’t want to send anything the parents will have to pay for.”

Along the way, the idea has become almost a challenge to get the most creative, diverse and beneficial items that still can fit inside the box, he said.

“I get tickled with people that go down and buy the boot box, so they can really stuff it full,” he said. “Other people will go out and buy Tupperware containers, so the family can use the container. People are pretty savvy what they can get into a little box. I know people that many will buy shoes in January and will keep the box, knowing that, in November, they’ll need it for Operation Christmas Child.”

Most of those that donate to the program have been doing so for years, and have grown very practiced at making every scrap of space work, playing charitable Tetris to interlock a slew of small gifts.

“Our kids, at Christmas time, they get inundated with tons of presents,” he said. “But for some kids across the world, a few things in a shoebox — crayons and paper to color on, is an enormous Christmas present they never would have gotten. They will be happier with that little shoebox that we take for granted than our kids would be with the latest toy. It’s a neat thing to be part of, knowing that somewhere in the world, there’s kids getting a treat beyond their wildest dreams.”

For more information on the program, or to track your donated shoebox, visit


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