Expanded Operation Christmas Child program gets going

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is up and running for 2014, with more businesses and individuals than ever interested in filling one (or more) of the program’s green and red shoeboxes for a child in need in one of 130 countries under the umbrella of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization chaired by Franklin Graham.

OCC drop-off schedule at Immanuel Lutheran

Nov. 17-21 — 12-1 p.m.

Nov. 22 — 10-1 p.m.

Nov. 23 — 11-3 p.m.

Nov. 24 — 9-10 a.m.

According to local organizer Dianna Tomson, OCC works like this: shoeboxes — either supplied by OCC, or one that is a standard size — are packed with items such as school supplies, toys, hygiene and sometimes even clothing for a boy or a girl, ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.

OCC recipients are often living in extreme poverty or war-torn areas and suffering from conditions ranging from HIV/AIDS to malnutrition, Tomson said. Often, they’ve been displaced due to natural disasters, living in orphanages or on the streets. Just as often, the shoebox is the first gift they’ve ever received.

So far, Tomson has more than a dozen businesses filling boxes or donating items in the Hood River area: Hogg-Davis (who filled 20 boxes last year), Crompton Dental (donating toothbrushes and toothpaste), One Community Health, AmeriTitle, Hood River News, Pietro’s Pizza, Napa Auto Parts, Windermere Real Estate, Don Nunamaker Realtors, Hood River County Administration, Washington Federal Savings, Hood River Garbage, American Family Insurance, Tammy’s Floral, E & L Auto Parts, Eagle One Thrift, Hood River City Police Dept., Hood River Juice Company, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Mid Valley Market, Julie’s Beauty & Barber Shop, Tina’s Nails & Waxing, Windmaster Market, Les Schwab Tire Center, and CenterPointe Community Bank.

Tomson is looking for more participation and would like to break the record for the most shoeboxes filled in Hood River County; last year, 3,350 boxes were sent overseas, up from 2,701 in 2012. In recent years, local boxes have traveled to Madagascar, Indonesia and the Philippines.

While some might consider OCC a “charity,” Tomson doesn’t see it that way. “We’re allowing a child to live and grow, and give them hope for the future,” she said. “This gift through Samaritan’s Purse is eternal.”

A copy of the Christmas story in the child’s language is added to each box by OCC, and everyone is invited to attend a bible study course. And that’s why the program is so important to Tomson; the shoeboxes are “saving their lives and their souls.”

OCC collects the shoeboxes on a national level the third week of November — this year, Nov. 17-24 — and in Hood River, drop-off is at Immanuel Lutheran Church, located at 9th and State streets, or, in the case of businesses, collected by Tomson as soon as they are filled. She’s also requesting a $7 shipping fee be included, the cost to send each box.

For those unable to fill a shoebox, Tomson is collecting monetary (to defray shipping costs) and item donations. For more information or to fill a box, contact Tomson at 541-400-9523. Donations are also being collected through Samaritan’s Purse, samaritanspurse.org; click the Operation Christmas Child link.

Operation Christmas Child shoebox ideas:

School supplies: Notebooks, paper, stationary, crayons, markers, color pencils, pencil sharpener, pencil pouch, solar calculators

Toys: Coloring books, small craft kits, stuffed toys, dolls, cars/trucks, beads, yoyos, jump rope, small Frisbee, ball, stickers, small baseball glove,

Clothing: T-shirts, bandanas, socks, shoes, sunglasses, purses, small tote bags, hair accessories, gloves, hat, scarf

Personal care: Wash cloths, combs/brushes, sewing kits, utensils, plastic bowl/cup, toothbrush, toothpaste, bar soap

Food: Hard candy, lollipops

Other: Blackboard fabric, small flashlight

Items to avoid: Liquids (shampoos, bubbles), war-related items (guns, swords), Harry Potter and Pokémon, vitamins or medications, breakables (snow globes, mirrors with handles), toy snakes or play money, seed packets, and foods like chocolate, crackers, pretzels, nuts, tootsie rolls, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

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