An international Christmas outreach program designed to deliver gifts to children living in poverty around the world gets plenty of help right here in Maryland.
Samaritan’s Purse delivers shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items and school supplies to children in more than 150 countries and territories as part of its Operation Christmas Child project.
The Christian-based organization also aims to deliver the message of God with every gift.
In 2014, the Baltimore area collected about 46,000 shoeboxes as part of the project. This year, that number was up by about 5 percent with a week to go before Christmas.
“We shipped over 10 million shoe box gifts last year and we’re hoping to ship 11 million this year,” Lucas Zellers, media coordinator with Samaritan’s Purse, said.
Zellers explained the impact of the project is felt both upon delivery and in the preparation process.
“The simple gifts in these shoeboxes can be a turning point in the lives of the children who receive them. The project also brings together people from all walks of life to pack, collect and ship the gifts. Operation Christmas Child has a huge impact on both sides of the box,” Zellers said.
The Baltimore area has about 70 year-round volunteers who arrange drop-off locations, organize events and work to make National Collection Week a success.
This year collection week ran Nov. 16-23, but Zellers says anyone can donate a box year-round either in person or online.
“Really the best way to get involved at this point is, build a box online if you’ve missed National Collection Week,” Zellers said.
Preliminary collection totals from around the Baltimore region are as follows:
- The Church at Severn Run in Severn collected over 22,700 shoebox gifts from Anne Arundel and Prince George’s county.
- Montgomery and Howard counties donated 9,700 shoebox gifts at His Way Christian Bookstore in Ellicott City and more than 12,200 shoebox gifts at Redland Baptist Church.
- Baltimore, Baltimore City, and Harford counties donated over 48,000 shoebox gifts at Grace Fellowship Church in Lutherville Timonium.