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Church to open collection site for Operation Christmas Child

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Volunteers hope to collect 9,000 gifts

Operation Christmas Child kicks off its National Collection Week today and volunteers at Valley Creek Baptist Church in Elizabethtown will be busy preparing shoeboxes for impoverished children.

Nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse started Operation Christmas Child in 1993, according to a news release. Its goal is to fill empty shoeboxes with school supplies, toys, candy and necessity items. The boxes are hand-delivered to children in more than 100 countries.

Since its inception, the project has provided 86 million gifts to needy children, according to the organization.

Cheryl Vowels, Hardin County coordinator and member of Valley Creek, said the Elizabethtown church serves not only as Hardin County’s collection site but as a regional collection site, collecting boxes from LaRue, Nelson, Meade, Breckinridge and Bullitt counties.

The church has been a collection site for the last five or six years, Vowels said. In 2010, Hardin County collected more than 5,000 items while a total of 9,000 boxes were shipped from Valley Creek.

“We thought it would be affected by the economy, but it really hasn’t been,” Vowels said.

In 2010, 8.2 million boxes were distributed worldwide. Of those, 5.5 million were collected in the United States, she said.

Vowels estimates somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 boxes will be shipped this year from Hardin County.

Fifty to 75 volunteers assist at the collection site, including children and teens, she said, and not all of them are affiliated with Valley Creek. Donations are accepted through Nov. 21.

As the regional center, volunteers pack shoeboxes into crates and place them in a tractor trailer which then transports the boxes to North Carolina, Vowels said. Once there, the boxes are processed and checked for dangerous or perishable items before being sent overseas.

A regular shoebox or a shoebox-sized plastic container can be used, she said. The collection site has some boxes readily available for donors who can’t come up with one on their own.

Boxes can be wrapped, but Vowels said the bottom and top need to be wrapped separately. Although it is not necessary, Samaritans Purse asks for a $7 donation to assist with shipping costs.

Vowels stressed that Operation Christmas Child is a Christian mission and the children who receive these gifts “also receive the gospel.” Furthermore, the boxes  not only are delivered to impoverished children in foreign countries but also are sent to children in the United States, she said.

For many of these children, Vowels said the shoebox gift is the first they’ve ever received.

Donors who want to know where their box is sent can use a Follow Your Box tool on Samaritan Purse’s website.

Site Operation Hours

Monday-Friday: 2 to 6 p.m.

Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sunday: 1 to 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Cheryl Vowels at Valley Creek Baptist Church in Elizabethtown at (270) 737-9282.