Sites in Rockford will be among 5,000 drop off locations in the U.S. collecting shoebox gifts for children overseas during Operation Christmas Child, which runs November 12th – 19th.
Stores are beginning to fill with shoppers looking for the perfect present for their family and friends.
Some shoppers are buying gifts that will be shipped to children all around the world, as part of a charity event called Operation Christmas Child.
Since 1993, volunteers have packed shoebox-sized boxes with items for either a boy or a girl, in three different age ranges.
Boxes covered the tables at both Rockford’s Temple Baptist Church and CrownPoint in Belvidere during the first day of collections.
“We have a shirt in here. It looks like she made a necklace and she put some flip flops in there, some stickers, brushes,” says Tracy Heck, a volunteer at Belvidere’s CrowdPoint Ministry Center, describing the contents of one of the boxes.
“[We have] some ‘wow’ items, as we like to say,” says volunteer Michelle Fay. “Kids like stuffed animals, soccer ball, things like that. Also, school supplies.”
Operation Christmas Child is a project of international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
Organizers say some of the items that will be sent are things often taken for granted by people living in the U.S.
“A little boy, who got a box, and it had a twelve pack of pencils, he was so excited he was going to take them and share them with the whole school, because his whole class, of over thirty kids, had been sharing one pencil,” Fay said.
“There was a little boy who was really excited to get a bar of soap,” Heck said. “And he was asked, ‘why are you so excited?’ And he says, ‘I live in an orphanage, and I have to share one bar of soap. There was over ten kids that were sharing the bar of soap where we get in the shower everyday, and there’s some kind of soap for us.'”
Though it has Christmas in the name, children from all different religions and cultures receive the boxes.
“Actually, it’s called Operation Christmas Child ’cause we collect gifts here around Christmastime. But, these gifts are distributed all over the world, all throughout the year,” Fay said.
“They’re also feeling love from someone that they’ll never meet…and it’s just a blessing,” said Heck.
Volunteers can fill shoe boxes with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement and drop them off to one of the following locations, no later than Sunday, November 19th.
Deliverance Crusaders Center, 2101 Auburn Street, Rockford
Temple Baptist Church, 3215 E. State Street, Rockford
First Baptist Church, 718 Harlem Road, Machesney Park
CrownPoint, 925 Belvidere Road, Belvidere
Cornerstone Family Church, 205 N. Peru Street, Byron
Hope Evangelical Free Church, 5656 Elevator Road, Roscoe
Faith Community Church, 212 W. McKimmy Street, Davis
First Presbyterian Church, 1100 Calvin Road, Rochelle
Bible Community Church, 2810 W. Pearl City Road, Freeport
First Baptist Church of Sycamore, 530 W. State Street, Sycamore
Shoe boxes can also be filled virtually, online at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline/