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Church aims to spread Christmas cheer around the world
Kellie Murray, a volunteer at Lakewood Baptist Church, stacks boxes that are part of the Operation Christmas Child campaign. - photo by Tom Reed

It’s not even Thanksgiving, but Lakewood Baptist Church is hoping people will do a little Christmas shopping this week for a child across the world.

It is collection week for Operation Christmas Child, a program of the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.

"They collect shoeboxes filled with gifts and they give them to kids in developing nations," said Jim Lee, the volunteer coordinator of Operation Christmas Child for Lakewood Baptist Church.

Through Friday, Lakewood Baptist Church will be accepting shoe boxes filled with gifts. People are encouraged to purchase small gifts for a boy or girl in a certain age range. The group asks people to shop for children from 2 to 4 years old, 5 to 9 years old or 10 to 14 years old.

Suggested gifts include school supplies, hygiene items and toys like stuffed animals, yo-yos and toy cars.

Once the boxes are collected, they will be sent to a distribution center where a religious story book will be included.

"It’s a ministry so the idea is they deliver these boxes, no strings attached, but at the same time the kids get to hear the message of the gospel," Lee said. "They get a material blessing and then the opportunity to hear a spiritual blessing as well."

Last year, nearly 8 million shoe boxes filled with gifts were distributed to 110 countries. "They first started bringing boxes into Bosnia about 20 years ago," Lee said. "The first year they collected maybe a couple thousand boxes."

Trucks are set up outside of Lakewood Baptist Church where volunteers will accept boxes. "We’re basically open all day every day this week," Lee said.