Through a national effort, Hanover residents will help children around the world one shoebox at a time during the holiday season.
As part of Samaritan’s Purse 20th annual Operation Christmas Child program, a Mechanicsville distribution center is preparing to beat their personal goal.
“Each new person that comes on board increases the number of boxes which increases the number of children who will hear about Jesus,” said Brenda Evans, the area coordinator.
Passionate volunteers like Evans primarily fuel the effort every year. Last year New Bethesda Baptist Church collected 23,425 shoeboxes filled with various necessities for life such as hygiene items, stuffed animals and clothing accessories.
With a wrapped box, each child abroad receives a short book that tells the story of Jesus. Evans noted that the presents serve as instruments.
“God calls us to share the message,” said Evans. “It’s a hope for the children.”
Roughly 11 countries participate in the program. Last year the United States as a whole collected more than 6 million shoeboxes, which were sent to more than 100 different countries. This year the non-profit set a goal of 9.8 million boxes.
During the week of Nov. 18-25, Hanoverians can be a part of the global effort by packing up gifts and delivering them to any collection center or the distribution center, New Bethesda Baptist Church. Volunteers gather that week to help wrap and send off the boxes.
Then eight processing centers make sure that all the items are safe for the plane ride. For instance, military-related gifts and perishables are prohibited. Evans recalled one year when a stick of butter was packed in a shoebox.
Before gifts are delivered to a center, Evans said volunteers tell residents to pray for their boxes first.
After gifts land into the hands of children, some can partake in a Bible study and once the program is completed, can receive a certificate and personal Bible.
A few years ago, Evans traveled to Ecuador to personally hand gifts out. She said the children cherished the items they were given.
Evans emphasized the importance of some gifts such as school supplies. Many students have to use the same sheet of paper over and over because there is not enough to go around.
“For the most part, these kids have never gotten a gift before,” Evans said.
She also spoke of a Honduran child who received paper and a pencil, which allowed him to go to school. Evans said that in some countries students must forego school unless they have the necessary materials.
In other countries, Evans has been told that some families share a single toothbrush amongst several children.
“We hear so many stories like that,” Evans said.
She has volunteered for the effort since 1996 when she helped the church become a collection center. Gradually the church became more and more successful with the project and now five centers contribute to Evan’s distribution center.
Although Evans said she thought about giving up her duty on numerous occasions, she has not stopped yet.
“There’s always something that keeps pulling me back into it,” she said.