SYCAMORE – For the fourth year in a row, First Baptist Church in Sycamore will aim to collect more than 1,000 shoeboxes filled with toys and basic necessities to send to children in poverty around the world.
The church is one of five relay centers for Operation Christmas Child’s Rockford collection site, which expects to receive 10,000 gift boxes that will be delivered by relay centers collecting donations from business, churches, community organizations and residents all of next week.
Operation Christmas Child is operated by Samaritan’s Purse. The year-round project of international Christian relief and evangelism provides toys, school supplies and hygiene items for needy children overseas.
The national collection week for the program is Monday through Nov. 19.
“We increase our giving between 7 and 10 percent each year,” said Rockford-area coordinator Robert Mullen. “It’s exciting to see us continue to grow.”
Jane Peters, coordinator at First Baptist Church, said she hopes to collect 1,200 boxes, which would be an increase from last year’s total of 1,029. She said making a box is simple.
The first step is to determine if the gift will be for a boy or a girl and in what age range, anywhere from 2 to 14 years old. Then the donor fills the box with toys, hygiene products, school supplies, hard candy and a note before wrapping the box and placing a rubber band around it. The organization asks for a $7 donation to cover shipping fees.
Each box also includes the story of Jesus’ birth and a copy of the gospel in the child’s native language.
“I think it’s just really nice at Christmas time to see children around the world that are less fortunate receive gifts,” she said. “You can’t help but think about those that have nothing at Christmas time.”
In order for the First Baptist to meet its 1,200-box goal, Peters said the support of other organizations and churches such as the Evangelical Free Church of Sycamore-DeKalb is crucial.
Sylvia Burchell, who has organized Evangelical Free’s efforts, said members have already donated about 25 boxes in anticipation of the collection week and she expects more during the week as members have asked for fliers to take to school and work.
“It’s such a joy to fill a box knowing this might be the only gift this child has ever received,” Burchell said. “It just warms my heart.”
In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone – collecting and delivering shoeboxes to more than 100 million children since 1993. During that time, the organization has collected more than 94 million shoebox gifts and hand-delivered them to suffering children in more than 130 countries.
Those who donate a box can follow their gift and track its location by using the “Follow Your Box” donation form at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.