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Shoebox contents spread joy

Two children in Ecuador share a peek inside each other’s boxes from Operation Christmas Child.

It's hard to imagine that something that could fit in a shoebox could light up a child's world and create memories that last a lifetime, but for some children in the world who have nothing to their name, something as simple as a washcloth can do just that, according to Sara Littlejohn, a media relations specialist with Operation Christmas Child.

The program collects shoeboxes full of toys, toiletries, school supplies and notes of encouragement from 3,500 drop-off locations across the U.S. and sends them to children all over the world who live in poverty or have faced natural disasters, war and famine.

Mike and Rebecca Baldwin run one of these drop-off locations at the First Southern Baptist Church on Hualapai Mountain Road in Kingman.

They will collect boxes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting Monday at the church, 3120 Hualapai Mountain Rd. They will continue collecting boxes until 2 p.m. on Nov. 19.

This will be the third year Kingman has been a drop-off center for the organization.

"Our church has been sending off the boxes for years," Rebecca said. "We just did our shoebox for years. Then one day, a couple we know asked if we wanted to help out in the distribution center in California. So we signed up to go."

The two had signed up for one of the four-hour afternoon shifts at the warehouse, but Mike was so excited they called to see if they could start early.

"They told us, 'Sure, come in around 8 a.m.,'" Rebecca said. "My husband was there at 8 a.m. every day that week, sometimes earlier. He'd bribe the parking lot attendants with donuts and coffee to make sure he got a parking spot."

After the boxes are picked up from drop-off locations, such as Kingman, they are shipped to seven different distribution centers scattered throughout the U.S. The boxes are checked to make sure that all of the items meet the organization's requirements and then they are shipped on to communities around the world.

Operation Christmas Child ships boxes for kids in the following age groups: 2 to 4 years old, 5 to 9 years old and 10 to 14 years old.

The organization recommends stuffing the boxes with small toys, such stuffed animals and yo-yos; clothing; hygiene products, such as bar soap and washcloths; and school and art supplies, such as pens, paper, pencils and crayons. You can even include a personal note to the child.

Operation Christmas Child asks that volunteers not include any war-related items such as toy guns, anything that will melt or run like chocolate or liquid soap, any medication or vitamins, any type of food other than hard candy, or anything breakable, such as a snow globe.

The boxes can be wrapped, but the organization asks that the lid of the box be wrapped separately and the box be held closed with a rubber band.

"Many of these kids have never gotten a present and don't have anything that they can call their own," Littlejohn said. "We had one little boy, who later moved to the U.S., who received a washcloth in his shoebox. It was his most prized possession. Previously, he had to share a towel with his whole family."

"The boys really like the little Hot Wheels cars and the girls like a lot of the art supplies and hair clips," Rebecca said.

"The hardest group to pack for is usually the 2- to 4-year-olds," she said. A lot of people pack their boxes with clothing and hand knitted items such as caps for this age group, she said.

Anything in the boxes that can't be shipped overseas is given to local shelters, so nothing goes to waste, Rebecca said.

Operation Christmas Child asks for a voluntary $7 donation to help with shipping the boxes, but the most important thing is getting the boxes, Rebecca said.

If someone gets a box to the church a day late, the Baldwins can still mail it directly to the distribution center.

If someone wants to donate money to help with shipping or purchase a box, they can do so online at www.samaritanspurse.org. You can also follow your box as it moves across the world at the website.

"God really has his hand in this," Rebecca said. "Each box seems to be specially made for the child that receives it."

Operation Christmas Child is one of the many programs run by Samaritan's Purse. The non-profit organization provides supplies for food, shelter, clothing, education and disaster relief to communities around the world.


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