Shoeboxes filled with toys and other children’s items will soon make their annual debut in Lincoln County as Operation Christmas Child’s (OCC) National Collection Week commences on Monday.
Last year, area residents packed 4,500 boxes, according to Kristin Turner, media relations coordinator for the state’s Western Piedmont region.
Turner noted that for the entire region she covers, including Lincoln, Gaston and Cleveland Counties, nearly 25,000 boxes were packed in 2012, with Lincoln alone contributing close to 20 percent of the holiday total.
North and South Carolina provided nearly 725,000 of the 6.5 million boxes the United States shipped to more than 150 countries last year, Turner added.
The boxes specifically allow children in such counties as Angola, Chad, Indonesia, Rwanda, Costa Rica and Haiti — where 250,000 boxes were distributed following the deadly earthquake in 2010 — and other impoverished, third-world countries to have a happy Christmas.
The nonprofit organization has provided boxes to children on all seven continents since 1993, an OCC press release said.
Additional countries that collect shoe boxes include Germany, Spain, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Turner stressed the importance of the project, meant to “break down barriers” to share the Christian faith, particularly Christ’s love.
“Living in the United States, we really have no idea of what it means to live in need,” she said. “In some countries, children live beside garbage dumps, in houses made of trash. They cannot attend school because they do not have paper or pencils to use or shoes to wear.”
She went on to note that may of the children are orphans, having watched their parents murdered or tortured.
For them, the shoe box is a source of joy, filled with first-time experiences for many who may not know simple, everyday items such as crayons and candy exist, Turner said.
“For many of the children, the shoe box is the first gift they have ever received,” she noted, adding it’s a “tangible expression” of God’s love.
Sometimes, the box itself is more than enough to please a child.
Turner noted how a friend of hers once watched a young boy push his box around the floor like a car.
“The little boy thought the gift was simply the box,” she said.
In addition to providing physical necessities, shoe boxes come with a spiritual opportunity, an invitation to attend a three-month study at a child’s local church.
Turner said the effort has produced a number of new church plants around the world.
Lincoln County collection sites this year will be Denver United Methodist Church, located at 3910 North N.C. 16, and Boger City Baptist Church, located at 2201 E. Main Street in Lincolnton.
Specific drop-off times at Boger City Baptist will be as follows:
Specific drop-off times at Denver UMC will be as follows:
For more information, call 1-800-597-6896 or visit samaritanspurse.org or facebook.com/OCC.Western.Piedmont.