When you’ve got shoe boxes to fill it’s easy to get into the holiday spirit.
For the last eight years Lee and Sherry Ramey and their three children each grabbed an empty shoe box and filled it with as many small treasures as they can fit inside for Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelical organization under the leadership of Franklin Graham.
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to “demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world.”
The Rameys are members of Harmony Hall Baptist Church and their congregation, like many other churches, organizations and individuals in Northeast Georgia, are gathering as much as they can for children around the world.
Lee Ramey said not only is it the perfect way to get the family into the spirit of giving but it’s fun, too. He said he has enjoyed watching how his children change the contents of their boxes each year as they get older.
“They like shopping,” he said with a chuckle. “They like picking out the toys for the children. They pick out the stuff that they like and I guess they just hope the child getting the box does, too.”
He said it’s fun to see what kind of random but useful items his family comes up with for the boxes. He laughed when he said someone packed a tape measure for a child this year but the gift came from the heart and that is what really matters.
He said other families might enjoy participating in the program and hopes the children who receive the gifts enjoy their presents as well.
“I don’t know the child that’s getting it. I don’t know anything about them but maybe it will bring joy to their holiday season,” Lee Ramey said.
Several local churches will be accepting the boxes during National Collection week, today through Nov. 19. Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville is the central collection center for Northeast Georgia but there are an additional eight relay churches that accept the boxes to later transport to Lakewood. Lakewood will then transport the boxes to Atlanta, one of eight regional sorts in the nation.
“From the sort the shoe boxes are then distributed to children around the world via an impressive logistical organization. Shoeboxes travel via plane, train, car, truck, boat, camel, donkey, elephant you name it,” said Jim Lee, collection center coordinator.
Lee said Lakewood anticipates receiving as many as 18,000 shoe boxes this year — enough to fill two tractor trailers.
Operation Christmas Child plans to collect and distribute 8 million shoe boxes this year.
Participating is easy. Decide if the box is for a boy or a girl and fill it with age-appropriate items like toys, hygiene items, tools, candy and school supplies.
Some suggested items are small cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, yo-yos, batteries, toys that light up or make noise, pens, paper, crayons, coloring books, toothpaste, toothbrush, mild bar soap in a plastic bag, hairbrush or flashlights. Participants can include a note of encouragement for the child as well. Children may write back if an address is included in the note.
Items that should not be sent include war-related items like toy guns and knives, chocolate, food, liquids or lotions, medications and vitamins, glass and aerosol cans.
Print an appropriate label found on the website, www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC, fill out and tape to the box lid then take the box to the most convenient drop off location.
A complete list of ideas and instructions is also available on the Samaritan’s Purse website.
A $7 donation will cover the cost of shipping the boxes. Donations can also be made online.