While many folks are still clinging on to summer, some people are already gearing up for the season of giving. Last week representatives from Operation Christmas Child were in town promoting the project, which sends shoe boxes full of gifts to children all around the world. It’s part of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization.
Susan Bretz is the regional area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in Alaska and said majority of the boxes collected in the state last year went to the Philippines following the typhoon. She said anyone can send a shoebox, and typically they ask folks to include anything a child might need or want.
“School supplies are in high demand. Many of the children can’t go to school without school supplies. Right now is a great time to be getting deals on that. Hygiene items, pieces of clothing and of course toys and candy.”
Heather Foxworthy works for the Kodiak Bible Chapel but is the center coordinator for the project here in Kodiak. She said the boxes aren’t packed randomly.
“You choose a boy box or a girl box and then an age group. So boy or girl, and then ages 2-4, 5-9, 10-14. So when you do a box it is a little more specific than just random.”
Operation Christmas Child isn’t new to Kodiak. Foxworthy said the Bible Chapel has participated in the project for about nine years and some families around town have donates shoe boxes since the 1990s. Last year 368 boxes were donated here in Kodiak and were part of the 16,862 boxes collected throughout the state. As a country the United States donated more than 7.5 million boxes to children worldwide.
More than 113 million boxes have been donated since Samaritan’s Purse began the project in 1993. Foxworthy said it’s amazing how many people in Kodiak have donated, or even received a box.
“We have people on Kodiak who have been shoe box recipients in the Philippines and now they are coming and dropping off boxes hat they have packed for a family because they have been in that same position and received a box overseas.”
While the project primarily sends boxes overseas, she said there are places around the country and in Alaska that also receive shoe boxes.
Loren Bretz is the Southeast area coordinator for the project and said people interested in donating should visualize the child they are packing a shoe box for and what they might enjoy.
“Because you don’t know what their situation is but you know you’re not just giving them necessities, you’re bringing them fun and joy and letting them know that somebody on the other side of the world cares about them. And I encourage people to write a note in it also. I actually received several contacts back from giving last year and it was really neat to answer back to them and hear what the shoe box meant to them.”
The Bible Chapel collects many of the shoe boxes donated each year, but Foxworthy said a number of other churches, organizations and schools collect them, too. Folks can find a full list of places to bring their box, and choose a box to donate by visiting samaritanspurse.org. You can also ask for a tracking number for your box and follow where in the world it might be delivered.
Boxes are typically collected in the end of November, but Kodiak collects boxes a little earlier to account for delayed shipping. While organizers set their sights on delivering the boxes by Christmas they can’t control customs operations in different countries so sometimes they are delivered well after the fact.