Every November during the third week of the month, people from around the area collect shoeboxes for the needy.
Operation Christmas Child is a nationwide effort put on by the Samaritan’s Purse organization aimed at helping underprivileged children all over the world by collecting and shipping shoeboxes full of needed items.
Steve Ford is a full-time volunteer with Operation Christmas Child in West Central Illinois. He says participants packing shoeboxes do have a few guidelines to follow.
“A lot of people will go to Walmart and buy the plastic shoe boxes that they have there because those are more durable. The box itself is kind of a gift to these kids. After that, you pick a boy or a girl, and then they do have age ranges, ages two to four, five to nine, and ten to fourteen. You pack the box with items that are appropriate for the age that you have chosen.
A lot of things that people will pack are school supplies, hygiene items, and then they do suggest kind of a wow item. Something like a ball or a stuffed animal, something that just is that item that kind of tops it off.”
Ford says although things like a toothbrush are always encouraged, items such as toothpaste or any other liquid or perishable item such as food are prohibited. He says customs searches packages from time to time and just one tube of toothpaste could get the entire shipment rejected.
Participants are encouraged to think outside the box for what to put in the box. Some have sent soccer or footballs before by deflating them so they could fit, however, Ford says if you do that, you also need to remember to include a pump and needle because the areas these gifts are sent to are impoverished or war-torn countries and the child would likely not have a way to inflate it otherwise.
Ford says you can go to samaritanspurse.org for a list of suggested and prohibited items. Packed shoe boxes can be dropped off beginning on Monday and any donations must be in by the following Monday, November 22nd at 11:00 am.
Ford says they are always looking for more support for the effort including both donors and volunteers. “Churches are probably our primary giver right now in the Jacksonville area. We are in a region that includes Quincy and Hannibal and they have done it a lot longer and been active a lot longer. I’ve seen a lot of community organizations in those areas like the scouts and service organizations participate and these are good projects for those.
I know I have spoken to a couple of 4-H clubs in the community that has taken this on. I believe the Key Club out at JHS did this one year. We would like to see some more involvement from groups like that. They can always go out to samaritanspurse.org and get information on the program.”
A $9.00 donation is suggested per shoebox to help with the overseas shipping costs. Ford says last year the Jacksonville area sent just over 1,000 shoe boxes, which was down a little from years past due to the pandemic.
He says Quincy regularly averages more than 5,000 boxes sent each year, and his group hopes to see Jacksonville reach the 2,500 mark soon. For more information visit samaritanspurse.org and look for Operation Christmas Child.