Operation Christmas Child kicks off Monday

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

Operation Christmas Child organizers in Scott County have been hard at work preparing for the organizations annual National Collection Week that is scheduled for November 12-19. No it’s not yet December, but when you are working to send Christmas gifts to children all around the world everything must kick into high gear well ahead of December. Without the help of Santa’s magic sleigh Operation Christmas Child depends on countless volunteers who work to make certain children in less fortunate parts of the world receive Christmas gifts while also learning about Christ. Scott County volunteers and churches have played a generous and instrumental role in this process and look to grow their contributions during this Christmas season.

Parkway Baptist Church Pastor and Operation Christmas Child County Coordinator Brother Bob Smith said, “This is a year-round process and we really get into high gear during early November with our national collection week.” All local volunteers have been extremely busy in preparations for this vital week. “We have been working hard to get our two Scott County processing locations ready for November 12,” Smith added.

Volunteers and church groups have been working to gather the Christmas spirit as early as this past summer by gathering materials to fill the donated gift boxes. Smith said the shoebox collections typically contain one “WOW” item along with school supplies, toys, hygiene items and notes of encouragement. “Each box is designated as an age specific gift for either a boy or a girl” Smith explained.

In addition to what can be included there are various items that cannot be included due to strict overseas shipping restrictions. The items that cannot be included in the gift boxes are: toothpaste, candy, any liquids or food and perishable items. 

“Most of these gift boxes are going to countries where soccer is by far the biggest sport so a deflated soccer ball with an air pump is one idea for a WOW gift,” Smith said.

The main purpose of the gift boxes is to reach children for Christ and Scott County churches and volunteers are striving to lead the way again this year. The overall effort has hand-delivered more than 100 million gifts to children ages 2-14 worldwide since 1993.

Smith said, “this has become a big operation here in Scott County.” During last year’s operation Scott County alone collected and shipped over 5,400 shoe box gifts, and the seven county area shipped over 23,000 boxes. “Many churches collect so many gift boxes they are able to fill their own cartons,” Smith said. “we take them the shipping cartons and after the fill them they can deliver the filled cartons to the Lake processing center for shipment.” 

Each donated shoebox gift requires an accompanying $9 monetary donation to help with the high costs of overseas shipping. Smith, who has worked with OCC for over 20 years said, “the costs of shipping these gifts around the world in very expensive.” As part of the operation when the gifts arrive in their destination country Franklin Graham will go and hand deliver each gift along with a copy of “The Greatest Book”.

Smith wanted to be very clear that while there are numerous Baptist churches at the forefront of OCC this operation is a nondenominational charitable campaign to reach as many children as possible through Christ. “This is a nondenominational operation and we welcome the help from anyone and everyone that would like to get involved,” he said. “One of the great parts of this wonderful effort is that Operation Christmas Child crosses denominational lines and we have Methodist, Church of God, Presbyterian and many other denominations participating.”

The Scott County collection center is located at Parkway Baptist Church on Highway 13 South in Morton. In addition to the collection center in Morton there will also be a final shipment processing center at the First Baptist Church in Lake, but that location is primarily used to load out boxes for shipping to Atlanta, GA.

After boxes are dropped off at the processing center in Lake, they will then be taken by truck to Atlanta, Ga. “This is a special ministry in itself. When we pack the boxes, we pray over them. We don’t determine their destination. They do that in Atlanta,” Smith said. “Then they go worldwide. To show how special Operation Christmas Child is, a lot of countries don’t allow things to be brought across their borders but they allow these shoeboxes for their children.”

Collection at the centers will begin Monday and end the following Monday. Churches, other groups and/or individuals can drop off their assembled shoeboxes during the following times:

• Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

• Between 3 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday

• Starting at 8 a.m. until the last box is received on Monday, November 19.

“We’re expecting collections will be up this year as some churches are planning to bring in more than 1,000 boxes,” Smith said. “Everything is shaping up for another great year and everyone is excited.”

The Baptist Association arranges for students to help with the loading of the trailers but Smith said any volunteers are welcome to help. Local school clubs can earn community service hours for their participation. Students must be 15 years or older to participate.

Anyone who needs boxes to fill should contact either Bob Smith at 601-954-5296 or Tammy Phillips at 601-906-0042.

“We have great people and churches in Scott County and that is what always makes this a success,” Smith said. The state of Mississippi is always listed at or near the top of the most generous state lists, and it is the generosity of the people of Scott County along with the tireless efforts of our local volunteers that help make this operation so successful each year.