CAMBRIDGE — When is a shoebox more than a container to hold shoes? For millions of children around the world who receive shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, and personal hygiene items provided through the efforts of thousands of churches and individuals through Operation Christmas Child, a simple shoebox can be a life changing experience. Although National Collection Week starts on Nov. 13 and continues through Nov. 20, the work of many churches in Dorchester County starts many months earlier.
Linda and Randy Bradford who have operated a collection center at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Maryland Avenue in Cambridge for a number of years spoke about this project. “Operation Christmas Child is a part of a humanitarian organization called Samaritan’s Purse led by Franklin Graham that has a goal of providing children in need a tangible gift to demonstrate God’s love. For many of these children, the gift filled shoebox is the first gift they have received. We have many churches in our county who actively participate with over 1,100 shoeboxes being collected last year at this center alone and we are looking to have more local churches participate. Last year, collection centers in lower Maryland and Delaware collected over 12,000 shoeboxes and over 11,000,000 shoeboxes were collected by Operation Christmas Child worldwide for needy children. Some churches have individuals who take the time to knit a scarf, cap, or mittens giving the shoebox a personal touch and the inclusion of a “wow item” create a memory making the gift even more special. The great thing is that anyone can participate with local churches with a vehicle full of boxes or people who want to give and will bring an individual shoebox to us."
Although the shoebox gift is important, that gift also provides the opportunity to share the story of Jesus Christ and God’s Love to people who may not be able to receive that message. Along with the shoebox comes the opportunity for the child to participate in “The Greatest Journey” a 12-week discipleship program where they can learn from trained, local volunteers what it means to follow Jesus and how to share their faith with friends and family.
There are a number of ways to participate in this project. One way is to fill a shoebox. Boxes can be prepared for Boys or Girls and fall within 3 age groups – 2 to 4 years; 5-9 years; and 9 to 12 years old. The shoebox can be one out of a person’s closet or there are shoeboxes available to fill.
Items are not limited to toys but should include school supplies and personal hygiene items such as soap, toothbrushes, and washcloths. Candy, toothpaste, liquids or breakable items are not allowed. You are asked to make a $9 donation to help offset the cost of shipping and processing your shoebox.
Another way to participate is through donation of items to the collection center that could be packaged in a shoebox for “packing parties” or have a packing party with your friends, community organizations, etc. Small balls, school supplies such as pens, pencils, small tablets, crayons and coloring books, colored pencils, small toys, and similar items can be donated for this purpose. There is a need for personal hygiene products such as bar soap, toothbrushes, washcloths, tissues, and similar items.
Businesses that may have changed their name or logos or ceased operations may have pencils, pens, writing pads and similar items that could be donated. Cash donations are also being accepted that would allow the purchase of items to be used to fill boxes.
For further information on how to be a part of this program, contact Randy Bradford at 410-463-1604 or St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 410-228-1424.