Beginning Nov. 12, locations throughout Whidbey Island will be collecting shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for the Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation Christmas Child.
The boxes will be sent to needy communities in more than 100 countries to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine and disease. A small percentage also goes to children on U.S. Native American reservations.
Drop-off coordinator for Oak Harbor Katelyn Morehead recalls meeting with a young woman from Asia who still remembered every item in her box, 10 years later — it had meant that much to her.
Common, kid-friendly items include stuffed animals, dolls, notepads, toothbrushes, clothes, sports balls with pumps, markers and flashlights. People can also submit letters to be read by the young recipients.
There are two collection sites on Whidbey Island: Church on the Rock in Oak Harbor and South Whidbey Assembly of God in Langley. Drop-offs can be made during National Collection Week, Nov. 12-19.
Already, the Church on the Rock has collected 53 boxes from parishioners, Morehead said, who’s been involved with Operation Christmas Child since she was young. People that pack boxes “get the joy of giving during this season and the joy of helping kids,” she said.
The local goal of the Skagit Washington Area Team is 8,050 boxes, Samaritan’s Purse Media Relations Associate Cassie Roberts said. The group’s global goal is to collect 11 million boxes, a goal that they exceeded last year, she said.
Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that also often distributes reading materials alongside the box and gives recipients the option to attend a 12-lesson discipleship program, Roberts said.
Operation Christmas Child has been operating for over 20 years, delivering more than 146 million boxes in that time, according to its website.
“Packing a shoebox is a really easy way to participate in the act of giving, bring hope and joy and plant the seed of Jesus in another country without necessarily having to go there,” Roberts said.
People can track their boxes’ progress using a purchased code from the shipping label on each box. Along with small toys and hygiene items, each box contains a “wow item.”
“Basically when they first open up the box it’s the biggest item that they see,” Roberts explained. “It’s something exciting for them to open up to.”
There are a few items that are not recommended to be packed, including perishables, food items or candy, toothpaste, liquids or any toys that symbolize war, Roberts said. Each box is tailored by gender and age range.
“I would say for many of these children, it’s a great way to show them that someone cares,” Roberts said.
“Showing them that there’s hope and also sending them a greater message that they can hold onto their whole lives. I think it’s a really impactful way for us to reach out so that the children can feel seen.”
Packing a shoebox:
The Samaritan’s Purse steps to pack a shoebox, according to the website:
1. Find a shoebox. Start with an average-size cardboard or plastic shoebox. If you want to wrap it, cover the box and lid separately.” 2. Girl or boy? Decide whether you will pack a box for a girl or a boy, and the age category: 2–4, 5–9, or 10–14.
3. Fill with gifts. Select a medium to large “wow” item such as a soccer ball with pump or stuffed animal, then fill with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.
4. Pray. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift. You can also include a personal note and photo.
5. Follow your box labels. “Donate $9 online and receive a tracking label to “follow your box” and discover the destination of your shoebox gift. 6. Drop-off. Take your shoebox gift to a local drop-off location during National Collection Week, Nov. 12–19.