Operation Christmas Child underway in Albert Lea

Published 8:59 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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By James Sanchez

The holiday spirit began to permeate the air in Albert Lea this week as Operation Christmas Child got underway to bring joy to children all over the world.

A phone call placed to Samaritan Church’s Franklin Graham approximately 27 years ago requesting assistance for children in Bosnia, began what is now a successful holiday operation. 

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“The drive behind Operation Christmas Child is to make sure that toys and items of need are collected and given to children most in need all over the world,” said area coordinator Rose Olson.

Through the program, people can fill a box, which resembles a shoebox, depending on the demographic one chooses, with new items for Christmas.

“The boxes are for children 2 to 4 years old, 5 to 9 years old and 10 to 14 years old, and you decide whether it’s for a boy or a girl,” said the 13-year veteran of the operation.

“You then purchase items for these shoebox-like boxes, such as toothbrushes but not toothpaste, hair items but nothing liquid, and you put a ‘wow’ toy in there such as a stuffed animal or a doll or even soccer balls with a pump.”

Olson said liquid or edible items are not allowed in the boxes, and the items must be new items since they are gifts.

Items that can be put in for 10- to 14-year-old boys are tools, such as hammers, screwdrivers or wrenches, and matchbox cars and hats. For 10- to 14-year-old girls donations can include purses, T-shirts, hair items and hats.

“Think of it as you are getting something for your grandchild,” Olson said, as she became visibly moved as tears welled up in her eyes and she got choked up.

She took a brief moment to gather herself and said “Sorry… I get a little….”  then took another brief moment.

“You know — sometime back when I first began with this operation, there was this child who really wished for a pair of shoes. … They then opened up one of these boxes and wouldn’t you know, he got a pair of shoes and they fit him. … And you know … that’s a God thing.”

Each box comes with a code to track the destination, and each also comes with a pamphlet to spread the gospel.

After 13 years of running this operation, Olson continues to be excited about the prospects of giving to children in need every holiday season while also spreading the gospel.

When asked how someone can be a part of this operation, Olson stated, “Well, you can get in contact with your local church. They know about the operation, but if they don’t, they can follow up with me and we can go from there!”

She continued to state that “volunteers are always welcomed to participate,” as she also alluded to the impact COVID had on last year’s operation.

“We would love to have anyone who’s willing to help and be a part of this,” she said.

Full Samaritan Purse’s Boxes are always welcomed; however, there is a need for volunteers. If you would like to be a part of this process, the operation runs through Nov. 22 out of Bridge Community Church, at 2016 Bridge Ave. The operation hours are as follows:

Wednesday: 2 to 4 p.m.

Thursday: 4 to 6 p.m.

Friday: 4 to 6 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. to noon

Monday: 10 a.m. to noon

When asked if someone can help in the operation after Monday, Olson replied, ”Yeah, start buying toys for next year! It’s a big project!”