NEW FRANKLIN  Local residents can help support the Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation Christmas Child by donating gift-filled shoe boxes of needed items from Nov. 14 through Nov. 21 at Grace Bible Church, 5781 Manchester Road in New Franklin.

For the second year, Grace Bible Church will serve as the drop-off location and it has set a goal of 1,000 shoeboxes to be donated with hopes of reaching 12 million children, according to Cyndi Mathias, site manager for the church collection project. 

"In 2015, we were able to collect 773 shoe box gifts - 273 gifts over our goal of 500," she said. "These shoe box gifts are delivered to children in over 150 countries around the world."

Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, delivering more than 135 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children since 1993. For many of these children, it is the first gift they have ever received, according to the Samaritan’s Purse organization.

The children receiving the gift-filled shoe boxes are living in the midst of poverty, war, disease or natural disaster.

Mathias encourages the community to donate a shoebox filled with school supplies, hygiene items, notes of encouragement and a fun toy. Those donating can bring their own shoebox, but the collection site may also have some to provide. People are asked to donate $7 to cover the cost of shipping. The shoeboxes are delivered by mid-December from many collection sites throughout the United States and from many other counties. Volunteers at Grace Bible Church will help donors pack the shoeboxes.

The shoebox gifts will serve as tangible expressions of God’s love to children living in poverty overseas," said New Franklin volunteer Beckey Lebo, who has participated in Operation Christmas Child for more than 20 years. "Anyone is welcome to pack a shoebox and help a child facing difficult circumstances feel loved and not forgotten."

Operation Christmas Child has been a charity that Mathias has been involved in as a donor for 20 years and this is her first year as site manager.

"When I was a teacher, my students introduced me to Operation Christmas Child and that is how I got involved," she added.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 330-882-4416 or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can follow their box to discover where in the world it will be delivered. They can also pack a shoebox gift online and upload a photo and note of encouragement.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization headed by Franklin Graham. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.