Churches fill shoeboxes of Christmas goodies for children around the world

Published 9:45 am Thursday, November 23, 2023

Can a shoebox change a child’s Christmas? Samaritan’s Purse and countless churches, businesses and other generous people think they can through the annual Operation Christmas Child.

On Monday, volunteers at First Baptist Church on the Square and Western Heights Baptist Church shipped off thousands of shoeboxes meant for children in need around the world.

Donors pack the shoeboxes each year to help children in need and local churches and other groups then collect the shoeboxes each year in November. First Baptist and Western Heights serve as collection centers for Troup County, but countless other churches and groups help fill the boxes.

The shoeboxes typically are filled with a few small gifts sorted by age and gender, soccer balls, dolls, stuffed animals, etc. The boxes also contain a few essentials, such as school supplies like pencils, crayons and notebooks, along with toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries.

Donors can fill the boxes themselves or donate funds for them through samaritanspurse.org.

The boxes are then distributed by volunteers through Samaritan’s Purse to more than 100 countries worldwide.

The program started in 1993, when the idea began to help kids in war-torn and disaster areas all over the world, including the United States, said drop-off team leader Cathi Martin at Western Heights.

“Our church started doing it back in the early 2000s. That’s how I got involved with it, and it’s just grown and grown,” Martin said. “I love this ministry because not only are we taking a simple shoebox to the ends of the earth, but these children are hearing the gospel message. It’s  amazing.”

“These go to children that never get anything. They don’t have Christmas. They don’t have birthdays. They don’t have anything. This simple shoe box filled with pencils and toys and balls and games and stuff like that … it’s just such a happy delight to see these children are getting these boxes,” she said.

Martin said First Baptist had been the first drop-off site until the program grew too big for them to be the sole site in LaGrange.

“They said we can’t handle any more boxes. We need another drop-off. So they came to us,” Martin said.

Martin said their boxes are part of the Chattahoochee Valley collection area, which includes seven cities in total, including Columbus and Pine Mountain. The area collected about 21,000 boxes last year, she said.

Western Heights collected almost 2,000 boxes, Martin said. First Baptist probably got twice that or more, she said.