With the holiday season quickly approaching, Ashe County families, along with businesses, schools and churches, are planning to celebrate the holidays by giving back.
Through Operation Christmas Child, locals are joining tens of thousands of people across the United States to fill empty shoe boxes with toys, school supplies and necessity items for impoverished children around the world. The new collection site for Operation Christmas Child will be at the West Jefferson First Baptist Church.
“Right now, volunteers are preparing for the collection of gift-filled shoe boxes for the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, at a new collection site for the West Jefferson area,” said Todd Lotz, media relations associate for Samaritan’s Purse.
Lotz also said “this holiday season, West Jefferson residents are working to brighten the lives of millions of needy children around the world.”
Dan Jarvis from High Country Area Coordinators will be coordinating the effort locally. Jarvis said this year’s goal is to get 3,000 donated shoe boxes in Ashe, and 24,300 in the seven county region, which includes Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancy.
“Our passion is to bring the hope and compassion to children around the world,” said Jarvis.
“We’re trying to give children more than just a smile on their faces. Many of these children live in poverty and war stricken regions,” said Jarvis.
According to Jarvis, Operation Christmas Child is about more than just helping children across the world, it also benefits those who give their time and energy to the cause. “This provides an opportunity for churches to get involved and impact people’s lives,” said Jarvis.
Laura McClure is West Jefferson Baptist Church’s collection site coordinator.
“It’s neat to think that from our home in Ashe County my family can impact the life of a child thousands of miles away by simply filling a shoe box with gifts; it’s so easy,” said McClure.
McClure also said “for children living in extreme conditions, these boxes let them know that they are loved and not forgotten and that there is hope for their situation.”
The overall goal of Operation Christmas Child extends far beyond the local community.
In 2012, Operation Christmas Child expects to reach a milestone: collecting and delivering shoe boxes to more than 100 million children since the project began in 1993, said Jarvis.
According to Jarvis, this year’s global goal in to collect over nine million gift-filled shoe boxes in order to help surpass the 100 million milestone.
Operation Christmas Child, a project organized by Samaritan’s Purse and headed by Franklin Graham, is the world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, said Jarvis.
“Through the power of a simple gift, children learn they are loved and not forgotten. For many of these children, the shoe box gift will be the first gift they’ve ever received,” said Jarvis.
By using special tracking technology, participants can “follow” their shoe box and discover the country in which they gift will be hand-delivered to a child in need. To register your shoe box gift, use the “Follow Your Box” form on the Samaritan’s Purse website.
Anyone can drop off a packed shoe box at the West Jefferson-area collection site. Then, using whatever means necessary-trucks, trains, boats, bikes and even elephants-the shoe box gifts will be hand-delivered to hurting children in 100 countries around the world, said Jarvis.
West Jefferson First Baptist Church is located at 108 W. Second St., West Jefferson and can be reached by calling 846-5141 or 877-7388.
The churches operating hours will be from 8 am until 2 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 4 p.m. Until 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, call 336-982-4900 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.