‘They get these wonderful gifts’
Operation Christmas Child efforts continue despite virus
Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has put on a program called Operation Christmas Child, which is designed for people from around the globe to fill a shoe box with gifts and products to be shipped off to children in need around the world.
Citizens of Albert Lea and the surrounding communities have taken part in the event for a number of years and even in the middle of a global pandemic, this year is no different.
Rose Olson, who has volunteered with the program for 10 years, said the Albert Lea drop off location has given more than 13,500 boxes since she started.
“It’s a really good project because a lot of these kids, this is the first gift they’ve ever received,” Olson said.
According to Olson, the process of filling a shoe box is relatively simple. Donors are asked to pick a boy or girl and from age groups 2 to 4, 5 to 9, or 10 to 14. They can then fill the box with any items they might think a boy or girl in that age group may like, with some exceptions.
Boxes are usually filled with a “wow” item, such as a doll, a ball with an air pump or a stuffed animal; personal care items such as combs, a hairbrush, toothbrush, bar soap, reusable plastic containers or a blanket; items of clothing; craft and activity supplies; small toys; and a personal note.
Things that can not be included are candy, chocolate, gum or any kind of food; toothpaste; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; drink mixes — powdered or liquid; lotions; medications; or any breakable equipment such as snow globes or glass containers.
Once the box is filled, donors either place $9 in the box for shipping and handling fees or they can donate the $9 online and print out a label that will allow them to follow their box and discover the destination to which their box was shipped.
With the $9 in the box or the label printed and fixed to the box, donors then take their box to the nearest drop off locations. For Albert Lea residents, that location is Bridge Community Church. The location is open Wednesday through Monday Nov. 23. Hours for dropoff are 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to noon Monday.
Once at the location, volunteers will meet donors at their car to help them fill out the form if they haven’t already done so online and take their box from them. Samaritan’s Purse has provided all of its volunteer stations with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
From the Albert Lea location, the boxes are trailered to Rochester, where they are put on a semi and taken to Chicago.
Due to the various locations throughout the world the boxes are taken to, Olson said it may take some boxes months to reach their destinations.
Each box also includes the opportunity for the recipient to go to a class and be taught about Christianity.
“They get these wonderful gifts, then they might go to this class and their whole family might decide they want to be Christian,” Olson said. “That’s the best part of it, that we’re getting the message of Christ out to them.”
More information and printing instructions for the form and label can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/.