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Local churches collecting gifts to send worldwide

Even the smallest of gifts can have the greatest impact. For the next week, two local churches are on a mission to give the greatest gift of all, and it all starts with a simple shoebox.

From now through Monday, Harvest Church in Washington and Free Union Original Free Will Baptist Church in Pinetown are serving as drop-off points for Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry that delivers Christmas gifts and the word of God to children around the world.

“Other churches in the area receive boxes and when they get their boxes packed, they bring all their boxes here, we put them in cartons and take them to Oakmont Church in Greenville,” explained Harvest Church OCC volunteer Patricia Smith.

The boxes will then travel from Greenville to Charlotte, where they are opened, examined and gospel materials are added. From there, the boxes will be delivered worldwide.

Packing a shoebox is simple. Each box is packed for either a girl or boy with age ranges of 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. Every box should include a “wow” item like a soccer ball with a pump or stuffed animal, other fun small toys, hygiene items and school supplies.

Those packing boxes are then asked to pray for the child who will receive the box, and can include a personal note or photo if they like. For $9, they can also purchase a shipping label that will allow them to track their gift to its destination. A complete packing guide and suggested gifts can be found www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.

In addition to the gifts and necessities included with each box, the gifts also contain a copy of “The Greatest Journey,” a 12-step discipleship program that has shared the teachings of Christ with more than 14 million children worldwide.

“It’s important, No. 1, to share the word of God,” Smith said. “That is the main focus that we want to have. But then, it’s so good to see these children who are happy to get a pencil and a pair of socks. They’re just thrilled with it. It’s not about all the big things we give sometimes. It’s just the little things that make differences for these children.”

Drop off hours at Harvest Church are as follows:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20 — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 — 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 — 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 23 — noon to 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 24 — 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 25 — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

At Free Union Original Free Will Baptist, drop off hours are:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20 — 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 — 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 — 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 23 — 3 to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 24 — 3 to 5 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 25 — 3 to 5 p.m.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 704-583-1463, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination. Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.