Collections underway for Operation Christmas Child

Published 5:32 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Collection is once again underway at Bridge Community Church as a collection center for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

Operation Christmas Child is a program that sends gift-filled shoeboxes to children all around the world. It is one of several programs carried out by Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization led by Franklin Graham.

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Rose Olson of Albert Lea has led the collection of shoeboxes at Bridge Community Church for 15 years. During that time, she has become very knowledgeable about the event and what it means to the children it serves. This year, she decided to ask for donations of beanie babies, as they are abundant in quantity and are a good size to fit in a shoebox.

When people ask what they should pack into a shoebox, Olson has an answer.

“I tell them, ‘Just pack what you would for any kid.’”

According to the program’s website, each shoebox should contain one “wow item” such as a stuffed animal, doll or other toy. The rest of the box should be filled with hygiene items, school supplies and other fun surprises. A list of restricted items, such as toothpaste and war-related toys, can be found online.

Olson’s favorite part of Operation Christmas Child is knowing that the children will be receiving a gift, as well as the discipleship education that comes afterwards. Following the distribution of shoeboxes, children go through a period of instruction known as the Greatest Journey, after which they graduate and receive a Bible in their own language. This typically happens after Christmas, sometimes even in the summer.

In the meantime, Bridge Community Church has a few more days of collecting shoeboxes. After all of them have been gathered, they are packed into large Samaritan’s Purse boxes, prayed over and sent to a processing center in Chicago.

“It’s always the week before Thanksgiving,” said Olson as she spoke about shoebox collection week at the church.

Bridge Community Church is at 2016 Bridge Ave and will be open for shoebox drop-off from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday and from 10 a.m. to noon Monday. It is helpful for people with large quantities of shoeboxes to call the church ahead of time.

More information about Operation Christmas Child can be found at