Photo: Jason Fochtman, Staff Photographer
Hundreds of green and red “shoeboxes” were stacked in piles in the former sanctuary of Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands last week. Each box, specially designed with a logo – a shoebox with airplane wings and a red bow – was labeled either “boy” or “girl” and destined to brighten Christmas for a child in a developing country.
Faith Bible Church is serving as a collection center for Operation Christmas Child, a decades-old project of Christian international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse that has delivered millions of Christmas gifts to poor children in 150 countries.
As the holiday season approaches each year, Samaritan’s Purse sends out the call, asking churches, families, clubs and individuals to fill boxes with small hygiene products, school supplies and toys for children 2-14 years old. The boxes are packaged and sent to missionaries in poor communities around the world and are distributed along with a book that teaches a message of Christian salvation.
For many, packing shoeboxes has become a tradition.
Laura Montgomery, of Kingwood, has packed boxes each year for the past several years. This year, she dropped off six boxes at Faith Bible Church – five for boys and one for a girl. Each box was filled with a deflated soccer ball and pump, pencils, notebooks, play dough and a tooth brush, and labeled for a child between the ages of 5 and 8, the same as Montgomery’s grandson.
“I feel like it makes a big difference,” Montgomery said. “I hope they feel that somebody cares about them and God loves them.”
For others, volunteering for Operation Christmas Child has taken on an even bigger role in their lives. Jeannine Price of The Woodlands started out donating a few shoeboxes, but eventually progressed to voluntarily coordinating the collection effort at Faith Bible Church. The role is a year-round commitment, and Price dedicates at least an hour a week in the off-season, as well as 10 hours a week in the fall and a full-time commitment during collection week, which stretches Nov. 14-21 this year.
“I plan my vacation around this,” said Price, who works as a flight attendant.
The sacrifice of time is well worth it to Price at the thought of the joy the boxes will bring to children. Price said the videos that Samaritan’s Purse releases that show the kids’ reactions to receiving their gifts give her goose bumps.
“This is a child who has never received a gift in their life,” Price said. “Such a tiny gift can bring such joy.”
Price coordinates over 50 volunteers at one of the several collection centers in the North Houston area. Additionally, volunteer groups from schools and clubs have come in to help with loading the donated boxes to be shipped to a processing center in Dallas.
Last year, Operation Christmas Child collected 17,000 shoeboxes from the North Houston area which were delivered to 109 countries.
Donors can even track what country their box ends up in by donating the $7 for a special tracking label.
To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, how to donate and where to drop off donations, visit samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child.